[Some of this material is re-posted with grateful acknowledgement to a blog post by Elizabeth Abosch who I have tried to get in-touch with/link to regarding this post, unsuccessfully.] When I was a little boy, one of the ladies who made sure that I had an after school snack and got on with my homework until my hardworking parents returned home, was our next-door neighbor, whose name was Odessa (Redus) Brown. I took the name for-granted, yet always thought “Odessa” as a regal, majestic name and I never thought to research it until my Inna, who I hope will spend the rest of my life with me as my wife, introduced me to a place in her country that she wants us to enjoy together that has an historic beach-port, called Odessa, Ukraine, two years ago. Recently, she writes: “Naphtali, check out This Unpleasant Information… By the way, yesterday there was a whole transfer on TV with participation of real girls on a similar theme…. These girls told about the histories as they were used by years… Men from USA, England, Italy, Switzerland, Australia. Men promised to marry them, met on resorts, or came to them on a visit. Or invited to itself, and after one or two months sent the women home. As, have told and have shown a photo of the man which each two years invites to itself women home in in USA under the visa of the bride. And then exposes for doors of women… And so already proceeded [has done this for] with about 10 years. Now to this to the man any more does not give embassy the sanction to invitations of the following brides. I see, the whole system of entertainments and games on feelings was already created, and it is expensive(dear) costs(stands)! I of nothing want to tell bad about you and about us. I only share with you the information and as, has thought, if You will publish this information on the BLOG. Cheerfully it is possible to spend in Odessa to American guys! [Can have a good time] You remember, two years back, you sent to me the reference from YouTube about Odessa…. Yesterday wanted to find this reference again…. But has lost…. I any more do not remember, that there spoke…. But I remember, that there there was a dirty. Also it is the truth much to our regret. But this dirty is everywhere in any city of the world. And you know it. Only it is interesting, why particular Now this time, do they began to give this more than attention?!(Why?)” Yeah, Honey, I agree. Why the sudden attention to this? And so now, please peruse parts of Ms. Abosch’s historical account. “With access to Turkey and its closeness to the rest of Europe, Odessa is an international human trafficking hub. Women and orphans from Odessa or even poorer areas like rural Moldova travel to the city to find good jobs abroad, and are promised them by traffickers before their passports are taken away and they are sold into slavery or work as prostitutes within the city.” Video from a movie about Odessa: Elizabeth Abosch writes, “In wartime and in post-war Soviet film, one man made a name for himself portraying an Odessan and portraying him as a hero. That man was Mark Bernes, the first great Soviet Star and the possible creator of what I like to call, the Odessa “Hero Myth”. Bernes (who was of Jewish ancestry) became famous for his character Arkady Dzubin, first in the 1943 movie “Two Soldiers”. He spent time with troops in military hospitals who were native to Odessa, and picked up that their dialect seemed quite lazy and was accompanied by much shoulder shrugging and lip pursing. He created an archetype for “the Odessan”, a vaguely jewish, musical, easy-going person who could calm his brothers with humor and then rise to any bravery needed….” In “Two Soldiers” he distracts a woman from a bombing raid by singing an ironic song about a fisherman, Konstantin, and his wife Sonya: “Shalandy Polnye Kefali”:” And also of heartfelt interest, Ms. Abosch continues, “Perhaps his most famous song as the Odessan Arkady Dzubin was “Dark Night”, which became the unofficial anthem for Soviet citizens and soldiers barely surviving World War Two. The song is about a soldier who believes no harm can come to him as long as his wife and new baby still wait for him…” I can relate to this as I “fight” on the front of my personal financial “war” to achieve funding for Inna and I to finally marry here in 2013. The lyrics are, “Dark night, only bullets whistling over the steppe, Only the wind humming in the woods, dim stars twinkle. In the dark night, darling, I know, I’m not sleeping, And in the crib, you secretly wipe away a tear. How I love the depth of your gentle eyes, How do I want him to press my lips against you! Dark Night divides us, my love, And a disturbing, black steppe lie between us. I believe in you In my sweetheart, This belief is the bullet Dark night … Happily me I am confident in mortal combat: I know you will meet with my love To me no matter what. Death is not terrible. With time it’s time to meet. Here and now She whirls on me. You got me waiting And the cradle, And so, I know, with me Nothing will happen!” Maybe a bit more than many other famous cites in the world, Odessa is fueled by the myths surrounding it which shape perceptions about the place to this very day. Ms. Abosch’s blog from 2012 is concise, precise and enlightening – sometimes sadly so. Here is one more sample video and song with great classic pictures of “the city of the steps” that she brought to light, “I Remember Mother Odessa” (“Odessa Mama”): “Whoever has not been In the beautiful city of Odessa Has not seen the world And knows nothing of progress Who cares for Vienna of Paris, They’re puddles, jokes, no comparison Only in Odessa is A Paradise, I say. There in a restaurant They serve you beer And with it a bite Of fresh skrumbli Bashmala and balik And with them a shashlik With a good glass of wine – What could be better? Oh, Mother Odessa, You’re forever dear to me. Oh, Mother Odessa, How I long for thee! Oh, Mother Odessa, Who can forget you? Oh, Mother Odessa, I see you no more. Oh, Mother Odessa, I long for you and vow: Your avenues, promenades Are light, beautiful. The cafes, the boulevards, One can never forget. The carriages, the gypsies, The tumult, ta-ra-ram, The hotels, the young ladies Still are on my mind. Oh, Mother Odessa, You’re forever dear to me. Oh, Mother Odessa, How I long for thee! Oh, Mother Odessa, Who can forget you? Oh, Mother Odessa, I long for you and vow: Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, One cannot forget. Ay, ay, ay, ay, ay, How I should like to see you again! Hop tidl dam ti stidl didl dam ti….. Oh, Odessa-Odessa Mother, You are the most beautiful panorama; Everyone treasured you dearly. The cabarets, restaurants, You will still remember today Who knows what has become of you? Odessa, Odessa, I long for you” It is amazing that Odessa still is controversial and standing today; I guess they wouldn’t have it any other way. I encourage you to read Ms. Abosch’s whole piece here, http://odessahistory-eabosch2012.blogspot.com/2012_04_01_archive.html Out of respect for her brilliant research and blog, I shan’t devote more space to it than I already have in order to peek your curiosity. I feel this is a lesson in how stereotypical thinking ruins reputations on both sides of any argument. It reminds me of the rolled eyes, doubting looks, behind-my-back whispers that I am being “tricked” or scammed that I notice when I tell some people about my relationship with Nina, inferring that she isn’t “real” or “stringing me along”. Being a black American, I know how stereotypes painted with a broad brush can distort the perception of a whole people – or country – first-hand.
I also can hear my late father commenting how black Americans and Jews have many more similarities historically than most people realize. A story about Jews hiding in a Ukrainian cave comes to light here:
After you’ve absorbed her blog, please come back here to comment. Maybe we can get Elizabeth herself to weigh-in!