Amid the whining air raid sirens, the checkpoints, neighbourhood patrols, and enduring fears of Russian attacks – from the sea, air, or land – the historic and cosmopolitan Ukrainian resort city of Odesa is gently trying to reconnect with its famously relaxed holiday spirit, as if embracing it were a form of defiance against the Kremlin.
“Music is life. When music is silenced, anything can happen. Music is a way of protecting our minds,” said Olexandr Proletarskyi, a music critic, sitting on a bar stool in a dark cellar venue near the city centre.
But the recent reopening of clubs, beach restaurants, and nail salons across Odesa is not simply an expression of defiance, or an economic necessity. It also reflects growing local confidence in the course of the war against Russia, at least here on the Black Sea coast.
“The city is coming alive, I feel. I think the fear is going away a bit. People believe in our army, which is protecting us, and feel comfortable, feel safe. I don’t think the Russian army is winning,” said Alexander Hodosevich, a drummer for an instrumental psychedelic band, sitting with a group of friends after finishing an hour-long set at the More Music club.
The venue has just reopened, staging live (and live-streamed) concerts in the late afternoons, to give audiences enough time to get home before curfew.
North of the city, on windswept beach popular with summer tourists, razor wire, land mines and sandbags now block all access to the sea.