Anger grows in Ukraine’s port city of Odesa after Russian bombings hit beloved historic sites

ODESSA, Ukraine (AP) — Tetyana Klubova’s hand shook as she recorded the wreckage. Odessa’s ruined Transfiguration Cathedral She cursed Russia on her cell phone, her own land.

Klabova grew up in Ukraine and always dreamed of living in a seaside town. But she was not a war refugee.

In one week, There is Russia Launched dozens of missiles and drones In the Odesa region. Nothing struck as deeply as the destruction of the cathedral, which lies at the heart of the city’s romantic, sordid past and its deep roots in Ukrainian and Russian culture.

“I am a Kharkiv refugee. I endured that hell and came to sunny Odessa. Pearl, the heart of our UkraineKlubova, who has lived in the country for 40 of the 50 years, said.

She still has a scar on her neck from the third day of the war when her apartment was attacked. On the 4th, she fled to Odessa.

Now, she takes winter clothes and makes a quick trip to her place in Cork, so she can wait out the war in Ireland, “for we are not protected for a second in any town here.”

“any time, You may be attacked And your whole body will be torn apart,” she said. “After the war – I hope that Ukraine will defeat this filth, these vampires – I will return home. I will return no matter what.

Since Ukraine’s independence from Moscow in 1991, Odesa has been viewed differently from the country’s other major cities because of its long, conflicted history and a long view beyond its borders.

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Odessa’s past is intertwined with some of Russia’s most revered figures, including Catherine the Great, writer Leo Tolstoy and poet Anna Akhmatova.

Its ports were important International agreement last year Ukraine and Russia need to send their grain to the rest of the world. Its Orthodox cathedral belongs to the Patriarchate of Moscow. Its residents mostly speak Russian. And — at least until the Kremlin illegally annexed the nearby Crimean peninsula in 2014 — its beaches were favored by Russian tourists.

In the early weeks of the war, Rumors were planted by Kremlin propaganda Flew around the city: Moscow will never attack the historic center, the mayor boarded a boat filled with roses to greet the Russian soldiers, while the peaceful majority of residents waited for the Russian “liberation”.

They are false.

“Until today, if you read and monitor Russian channels, they are all convinced that we are here waiting for them,” said Hanna Shelast, a political and security researcher who grew up in Odessa, whose father was a port master.

Odessa’s regional infrastructure was repeatedly attacked by Russia during the winter, unlike its port, which was key to the Black Sea grain effort. Allowed shipment of agricultural products Safely from both countries to feed people around the world.

The ditches of the area were full Russia withdrew from the agreement In mid-July. Missiles and drones struck the next day, targeting storage sites, transportation infrastructure and random buildings. Ukraine’s air defense deflected many hits, but only a few made it through each day.

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Last week’s attacks were the first in Odessa’s historic city center since the war began.

Mayor Hennadii Trukhanov sent a furious video message to Russians after Sunday’s strike on the cathedral, showing rescue workers carefully removing the damaged icon from the rubble, no doubt.

“If only you knew how much Odessa hates you. Not only hates you. Hates you. You fight little children, the Orthodox Church. Your rockets even fall on graves,” he said. “You shouldn’t know us Odessans. You don’t break us, make us angry.

Another missile hit the House of Scientists, once owned by the Tolstoy family and converted into an institution that brought together scholars and researchers. The third hit is administrative and apartment buildings.

The targets were 200 meters (yards) from the port. Shelest believes the cathedral was hit by accident, but that’s a small consolation amid the destruction.

Ever since Catherine the Great turned Odessa into an international port in 1794, the city’s identity has been one of sea, cosmopolitan tolerance and an innate sense of humor. It was one of Europe’s largest concentrations of Jews, who made up a quarter of the population before the series of pogroms, and has large communities of Greek and Italian sailors to this day.

A week of attacks shook that foundation for Irina Gretz, who has at least three generations of family in the city.

“Every morning, I go to the sea to see the sunrise. But tonight I didn’t have the energy to go to the sea because I didn’t sleep all night. You see, we didn’t sleep all week,” said Gretz, who instead decided to visit each bombed site on Sunday.

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She began at the cathedral in the center of life in Odessa. The original organization was destroyed under Joseph Stalin in 1936 as part of his campaign against religion. When Ukraine gained independence, residents took up a fund to restore it to its original state. In 2010, the new building was consecrated by Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Aligning himself with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Kirill has repeatedly justified the war in Ukraine.

“Every rocket that lands on the border of Ukraine today is felt by its citizens as your ‘blessing’ to their children,” Archbishop Viktor Bykov, vicar Ukrainian Orthodox Church Odessa Diocese, wrote in an open letter to Grill.

Craze’s bittersweet pilgrimage had less to do with religion than mourning, and many made the same journey on Sunday. Some attended a service outside the damaged cathedral. Despite the sweltering summer sun, more than just enjoying the glorious beaches, there was more to clean up the trash.

“This is my city, this is a part of me, this is my soul, this is my heart,” Gretz said.

Then, anger overcame her, she suddenly switched to Ukrainian: “Odessa will never be part of Russia.”

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Hinnant reported from Paris.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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