Odesa the brave
Back in Odesa, the next stage for the mobile bakery is underway, but first: what it’s like in a city so frequently targeted by the threat of Russian missiles and drones.
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As we stepped off the coach from Chisinau in Moldova, late at night and half an hour before curfew at the Odesa bus station, the air raid siren came on, warning of possible missiles and drones on the way: welcome to Ukraine.
That night we arrived, the city itself was spared and the drones flew towards the Danube ports where grain destined to feed the rest of the world is stored - Russia’s latest target in its war on food. This night, just after getting home to the apartment, the air alarm is on again, which means constantly checking several Telegram channels to find out what’s happening. One says that ‘combat work is happening’ so if you hear loud noises, ‘it’s ours’. Reassuringly, half an hour later comes another message ‘no rockets are flying to Odesa, there are no explosions there either, stay in safe places’. Then another warning half a hour after that: ‘Odesa beware!’ And the poor beleaguered Danube ports are under threat again too.
Mykolaiv - the shield of Odesa
These almost nightly air raids are both incredibly stressful and distressing for people who live here. At dinner last night, a friend scrolled through his phone to show us the picture he took of the huge fire burning outside his window when a missile fell right next to his flat a couple of months ago. Another video, inside the flat showed his things covered in shattered glass: and a big piece of shrapnel which had landed in his lounge. Just last week, more missiles badly damaged a famous city landmark, the Hotel Odesa, which had stood empty for years, but was about to be redeveloped into something much more relevant for the local community: now it looms on the skyline as a shell of itself, windows broken, burnt and battered, out of bounds. The sound of that explosion was terrifying for the thousands of people living nearby: another friend of mine messaged to say she felt her whole apartment ‘jump’ when it happened.
At the time of writing, it is well past midnight, it seems quiet although those Russian drones are heading somewhere in the region, and the best that sleepless residents can do is scroll between telegram channels to understand the risks, take the necessary precautions - and put all faith in the heroic men and women of Ukraine’s Air Defence.
Some useful Ukrainian phrases for you that won’t be on Duolingo: працює ППО - air defence is working … загроза БпЛА - threat of drones. звуки боиової роботи - the sounds of combat work … and відбій ракетної небезпеки - repelling the missile threat.