Every year hundreds of homes on the coast near Odessa are gradually slipping into the sea. Nature did not want to put up with human greed, which has turned the small wooden huts into multi-storey cottages built upon sand. It’s almost biblical: powerful waves destroying the whole settlement.
“Kuren” – that`s how small straw or wooden houses on the Black sea coast are called in the South of Ukraine. The name comes from the Zaporozhian Sich: fishermen – elderly Cossacks, who laid down their swords and took up fishing rods – lived in hand built huts. There were no women here and fishing in the sea was not easier than making war. So glorious Cossack traditions have been carefully preserved on shifting sand.
Years passed, and the Cossacks warriors have disappeared from the Black Sea coast. Their descendants were then peaceful fishermen, who daily went out to rough sea. Huts became more solid – they have now been made of wood and no storm could damage them. Beach houses, however, were never built of stone – poor fishermen couldn`t afford houses made of such material, as well as sand couldn`t bear such a solid building, being highly unstable ground for capital construction.
The age-old biblical prohibition was violated in the Soviet Union. A lot of Odessites received a piece of land at the very coast. This land, however, was on the outskirts of the city – from the 16th station of Big Fountain and to Chornomorsk (formerly called Illichivsk) and then to Zatoka.
It`s in the “city of Illich” where the greed of a Soviet man came to a head: the owners of just ten square meters of the coast began constructing two-, three-, or even four-storey buildings made of heavy limestone on it. Often such buildings had no foundation at all. The updated huts were rented out to tourists for a fortune, and they were pleased, that the sea is really only 5 meters from house, just like the granny-landlord at the local bus station promised. Comfort was not even mentioned: old beds, two hob cooker and cold water in storage tanks, with a volume barely enough for two persons. However, nobody ever complained about that – campers flocked there for the open sea and clean sandy beaches, and not for the hotel stars.
Shortly thereafter, all beaches were filled up with buildings right to the edge of the water – that’s how badly local residents wanted to make money on tourists. The sea was no longer clean and the conditions have never been improved. And then nature took revenge. Wave after wave, tide after tide, the water eroded the fragile sandy soil. Four-storey huts couldn`t sustain pressure and began to sink, the cracks were showing. Somewhere the roof collapsed, somewhere the floor fell in. Parts of the buildings started to go underwater. The owners of the huts appealed to the authorities, however, almost all landlords haven`t got any deed to that land. And the solution did not give them inspiration: to save the coast, all the huts were to be demolished, the beach was to be strengthened by massive concrete structures and sand was to be poured annually. No one accepted to spend the income in order to save the business. The owners of the houses moved out all they could tear off the walls. And hundreds of huts on the coast were waiting in the wings – when they would be finally taken by the Black sea.
Text by Kostiantyn Rul
Photo by Maryna Bandeliuk