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Beach during the day, air raids at night: Summer comes to end in Odesa

by Anastasia Vlasova September 15, 2023 6:19 PM 4 min read
A man sunbathes at Langeron Beach, the oldest beach in Odesa, on Sept. 6, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
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Before Russia's full-scale invasion, the Ukrainian port city Odesa was a popular summer destination. Every year, tourists would flow from Ukraine and abroad, attracted by its beaches, bustling nightlife, history, and rich local cuisine.

A year-and-a-half into the full-scale war, the city is getting back to its ways — with some changes.

During the day, the city’s beaches and restaurants welcome a growing number of people, now half of the number it enjoyed before the invasion. But every other night, when the curfew starts, Odesa is shaken by air raids, as Russia targets its port terminals to further undermine Ukraine’s ability to export grain.

People walk near the Odesa Opera House, a popular landmark in Odesa, on Sept. 9, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)

One of the biggest summer attacks took place on the night of July 22, when the city's main cathedral was damaged.

The Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa, which was severely damaged by a Russian missile attack on July 22, 2023, is seen on Sept. 6, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
The ceiling of the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa shows the damage caused by the attack in July. (Anastasia Vlasova)
An Orthodox priest conducts a service in the Transfiguration Cathedral in Odesa on Sept. 6, 2023. After the cathedral was damaged in the mass attack on Odesa in July, a small room was allocated in the cathedral for the services to continue. (Anastasia Vlasova)

Swimming in the sea was officially banned until mid-August, when local authorities announced some beaches, including the popular Langeron Beach, safe enough. That didn’t last long: In late August, the beach was evacuated when swimmers reported spotting what appeared to be a naval mine.

People enjoy the beach at the outskirts of Odesa on Sept. 6, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)

Naval mines aren't the only threat. After the Kakhovka Dam was destroyed in June, leading to an environmental disaster, authorities warned that the sea near can be contaminated and bad for swimming.

That didn't discourage locals who wanted to swim in the sea. They frequented the beaches even before the ban was lifted.

A local man, Anatoliy, fishes at the Langeron Beach in Odesa on Sept. 6, 2023. Anatoliy says he comes to the beach every day to swim and fish, despite the threat of naval mines and contamination from the Kakhovka Dam destruction. (Anastasia Vlasova)

Away from the beach, the city's legendary central market, Pryvoz, is bustling with life as it always had.

A woman sells dried fish at Pryvoz, a historical market in central Odesa on Sept. 7, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
A woman sells potatoes at the Pryvoz market in central Odesa on Sept. 7, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
Freshly harvested fruits sold at the Pryvoz market in central Odesa on Sept. 7, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
A stall with women's clothing at the Pryvoz central market in Odesa on Sept. 7, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
A salesman takes a nap at the Pryvoz market in Odesa on Sept. 7, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)

This summer's attacks, especially intense in July, ruined or damaged dozens of historical buildings in Odesa. One of them was the city's Archaeological Museum, where the ceiling fell recently, following the damage the building had undergone in earlier attacks.

A view of the Archaeological Museum in Odesa that was damaged by a Russian strike in July 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
A room at the Archaeological Museum in Odesa still bearing severe damage from a Russian strike in July 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
A sculpture of Grigorios Maraslis, a 19th-century mayor of Odesa, is covered to protect it from damage. The sculpture is installed in the Archaeological Museum in Odesa, which was damaged in a Russian strike this summer. (Anastasia Vlasova)
A statue of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in front of the Pushkin Museum in Odesa is hidden from view on Sept. 7, 2023. While the statues in the city get covered to protect them from damage, hiding Russia-related statues like that of Pushkin is also part of the city shunning away from Russian connections and culture amid the invasion. (Anastasia Vlasova)
A woman eats an ice cream in central Odesa on Sept. 7, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
A marine academy cadet walking through central Odesa on Sept. 7, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
Anti-tank hedgehogs and remains of a barricade are seen in central Odesa on Sept. 7, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
A family heads to the beach at the outskirts of Odesa on Sept. 6, 2023. (Anastasia Vlasova)
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