As battles rage in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, people living in the strategic Black Sea port city of Odesa are trying to live life as normally as possible. Odesa has been hit by Russian missiles, but the city has so far been been spared any full-scale assault. With “Danger: Mines” signs marking its beaches, sandbags protecting its heritage sites, and air-raid sirens alerting its citizens of incoming missiles, the residents of Odesa are living their lives knowing any quiet moments of normalcy may come to a swift end.
The historic city, founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great on the coast of the Black Sea, is known for its Potemkin Stairs, stunning architecture, and pleasant beaches. It is also uneasily awaiting its fate as it looks to the east, where cities such as Mariupol and Kherson have been left in ruins by Russia’s invasion. If Russia can succeed in capturing Odesa, it would be a strategic military prize, ending Ukraine’s ability to use the Black Sea for imports and exports.