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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #367

Odessa was hit again yesterday morning in the early hours. A group of Shaheed long-distance drones with high explosive warheads were sent in the direction of the port town, and although most were shot down one got through and hit a residential apartment building in a suburb 10 kilometres outside the centre. It’s unlikely that this was the intended target; when the drone operators realised that the drones were being taken out, they likely just decided to slam the one remaining drone into the closest tall building. That’s the sort of logic that applies in war: you’d might as well just hit some target, any target, rather than have the entirety of your drone fleet the subject of effective air defence. Although at the time of writing it’s not known whether anyone died in this incident, in fact it illustrates the relatively high level of effectiveness of Ukrainian air defence systems.

Nevertheless despite all this carnage, the party goes on and life keeps pulsing in Odessa. My day was a little eccentric; I met my friend and I bought some Stepan Bandera and Ukrainian Armed Forces tourist souvenir paraphernalia from the local flea market that sells every sort of knocked off, dubious goods during all hours of the day. There are bookshops, fake watch shops trying to pretend to you they are selling you real Swiss watches, old pre-war static photos of Odessa, unusual sorts of ice cream and other local delicacies: everything you never thought about buying in there, so we wondered round for a while. Then we had an argument about whether to cross the road on a red light and an explosive blow-up about whether I should buy a bag of pelmini (a sort of Ukrainian dumpling). I think we were both rather exhausted. So instead of the two of us shouting at each other mindlessly about nothing, I took the Ukrainian solution, which shows hoe localised I have really become: I took my friend to the “Drunken Cherry” shop in the middle of town. These are ad hoc bars in the major Ukrainian cities, that sell strong mulled wine with cherries laced with alcohol, and you drink paper cups of this in the street. After a cup of this each, we had both become far more civilised and respectful towards one-another, and the afternoon was diverted back towards a friendly and enjoyable day.

We trawled around backless dress shops, with my Ukrainian language skills improving by reference to learning how to buy backless dresses for my friend K——. Who, it turns out, suddenly sent a messages saying she was coming on some lunatic trip to Odessa from Lviv for 48 hours. She only had one condition: “no sex”. That didn’t stop me buying the backless dresses, and I woke at the crack of dawn this morning and I am hammering out these words in a hurry before I go to meet her.

My friend N——- and I then found a nightclub in an underground air raid shelter - something you could really only discover in Odessa, the party capital of Ukraine - and we learned that it opened at 5pm. We were there by 5.30pm, and we spent a quick hour getting sloshed to the groovy techno beats before going off to meet a new friend M——— in a pub / restaurant that was far more civilised than all this nonsense. After a quick hour or two with him, N——- and I were back to the nightclub in a bomb shelter, knocking back endless nasty cocktails and dancing those grooves to this hard house and techno music. The place was packed. We danced for hours, so it seems; I have no idea what time that place closes but presumably it has some pretensions of observing the curfew. It was heaving with beautiful people with a DJ from London, and I thought the party would go on forever as the girls got ever prettier and the alcohol flowed ever more freely.

Thankfully there came a point when a trigger just went off in my head: “go home. You’re in a bomb shelter serving as a night club, you could be here all morning, and you have to get up and collect the girl who won’t have sex with you in the morning” at an ungodly hour. So that’s what I did. We staggered and stumbled and bumbled out of that crazy insane place, wondering what on earth we’d been doing there, and we left the pulsating heavy music behind us as we tramped the short distance back to my apartment.

I don’t even remember what happened next. I woke up in bed with a pizza, which wasn’t going to impress my friend arriving at the railway station in a couple of hours. I poured salt in my coffee, and promptly spat it all out, which is a good sign you’re brain isn’t entirely wired up properly in the morning. I thought of the mania going on in that nightclub, even in the middle of war, and it’s just round the corner from where I am staying.

And then I realised that this is all a cause for optimism. The people of Odessa are under aerial bombardment from the Russians on more or less a nightly basis, and yet they still have the determination and fortitude to turn an air raid shelter into a nightclub, import a foreign DJ and drink fancy cocktails and dance themselves into the floor,. The atmosphere was extremely genial and the people of Odessa are wonderful in their party atmosphere that they absolutely will not let be ruined by this ghastly cruel war and all its ugly incidents. They will keep the party going and they will try to put this war, which is right on their doorsteps as free Ukraine’s principal port, out of their minds to the best extent possible. They show the customary phlegm, and I admire and am impressed with them. This iis what true resolve in the face of war looks like: dance the night away in an underground basement air raid shelter while the bombs rain down. The Ukrainians are something else. They are special people, anarchist liberals in the very best sense of the words. I love them ever more for their crazy perspectives on life. We are fighting for the right to party: literally.

And now I must go to collect K——-, who won;’t have sex with me, and present her with her collection of backless dresses. She must also be quite mad, to come on such an adventure. She too represents the spirit of what Ukraine is fighting for, a sort of libertarianism of a kind that is uniquely Ukrainian: the liberty to do crazy things. I love these quirky people, and I am ever more committed to their cause.


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