While the Russians are intensifying their actions against the Odessa region, in the south-west of Ukraine, after yesterday’s attack from two boats, the Ukrainian grandparents sit quietly in the park to play chess, given the physical, mental impossibility and cheap to flee, they only have one option left: stay in the city and wait.
In the Soborna square, in the center of Odessa, the anti-aircraft alarms are mixed with the ringing of the bells of the Transfiguration Cathedral, which begin to ring when the sirens are activated in the face of a possible attack. Despite these sounds, several grandparents gather every day to play and without shelter in any shelter.
“The underground bunkers are from before World War II, so I’m not sure they can withstand modern weapons.”Andriy, a 70-year-old pensioner, tells Efe at the moment one of the alarms sounds, although he prefers to stay in the park while he prepares to watch a chess game.
The city of Odessathe so-called pearl of the Black Sea, has lived in tension practically since the Russian war against Ukraine began on February 24, when it was one of the most precious objectives of Moscow for being one of the most strategic points of the country.
But yesterday the inhabitants experienced a spike in tension after days of relative calm when two Russian ships attacked with artillery on the outskirts of the city, the first time they have come so close to the city, damaging residential buildings, but without victims, according to reports. the municipal authorities of Odessa.
In addition, a high-ranking Pentagon official assured yesterday that they had detected an increase in Russian naval activity in the Black Sea and indicated that some of the artillery attacks against Odessa are the result of the activities of that Russian fleet, “especially amphibious combat craft”.
However, the source asserted that this does not mean that there would be an amphibious assault on the town from the port of Odessa, something that the population has feared since the beginning of the war.
Despite this threat to the city, Andriy, stroking his bushy mustache, has only one thing on his mind: his monthly pension.
”We come here every day, to the park, because we don’t know what is going to happen and especially what is going to happen to us. If they don’t pay us our monthly pension, what are we going to do? We can’t work”says Andriy, 70, who receives a pension of about 250 euros ($276).
Leaving the city is not among Andriy’s plans or that of any of his colleagues who accompany him to these morning chess games that can last until sunset.
Wearing a wool hat called a papaja, Andriy, who used to work as a security officer, says he doesn’t know “how to live abroad”. Therefore, he insists that he is not going to leave because, furthermore, “you need money to flee” and “not everyone can leave the city”.
At one of the tables in the park with the chessboard and wind-up stopwatch already set up, Vladimir and Anatoliy, both also in their 70s, concentrate on their game.
While Boris, 71, awaits the checkmate to take the loser’s position, he assures Efe: “Who are we going to leave for? We are between 70 and 80 years old. Where are we going? If I was young, yes I would go”.
When Vladimir gets up after having lost the game chaining one cigarette after another, he tells Efe between jokes that Odessa means “the smile of God” and that nothing is going to happen to him.
“Who is going to protect us? We do not have protectors ”, he explains and affects the issue of pensions:“There’s no point in us leaving when we have money”.
According to the latest figures from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)Ukrainian citizens, mostly women and children, who have left their country as a result of the Russian invasion amount to 3.48 million.
Between refugees and internally displaced persons, UNHCR fears that some 10 million Ukrainians, nearly a quarter of the country’s total population, have been forced from their homes.
(with information from EFE)
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