It is totally positive to say that Odesa has got traditions. But it is quite difficult to name them all, difficult mainly in terms of morality because not everyone likes cheating and overt criminality. Trafficking. Gambling. Compulsive greed for gain.
On the other hand, all mentioned above belong to the city traditions.
At least this is how our city is viewed by the “outside people”. But the problem is we like this idea of who we are. We cultivate cheating as if it were the main feature of an Odesan… All sins of the world were claimed to represent our virtues. Not all of them, perhaps. Fortunately, not murder, but definitely, adultery.
And of course, mockery – the one who won’t crack a hundred of dirty or aggressive “Jewish jokes”, is not an Odesan. Unfortunately, our city is a flip-flopper. Our city is ideology-driven. And this ideology is the story of Odesa life.
I believe, this “Odesa ideology” has to gradually change. And here are some points. Think of them as of a precis.
1. De-criminalization of Odesa myth. It is to be done urgently. Mishka Yaponchik and Sonka Golden Hand should not remain the symbols of our city. Let Odesa criminals be imprisoned and those who have given up the spirit (it is not for us to decide who to), let them stay in their graves. Odesa rose as a trade city and the gangland kept putting it down.
2. De-militarization of Odesa myth. “Odesa is a Hero City”. Only people can be heroes, not cities. Unfortunately, those who had heroically defended our city passed away. We hold the memory of them sacred. But Odesa peaceful future should not pivot around it. Otherwise, the Soviet time obelisks will keep throwing upon our citizens the weight of the Orders of Lenin and five-pointed stars forever and ever. We can’t get rid of the Communism ideology without de-militarization.
3. Centralization of the city. By that, I mean Odesa, and not the dispersed immigrant communities in different parts of the world, should be the focus of attention. And more! The word “centralization” contains the word “center”. The historical center of Odesa is in a terrible condition. Let the city broaden. Let business and administration of Odesa work in beautiful contemporary (not necessarily high-rise but why not!) buildings at the site of the small houses in Moldavanka and Slobodka-Romanovka, the houses rapidly deteriorating (it is a pity, but this area has already degraded much, the infrastructure is broken). The center of Odesa has to be restored.
4. The imperial past of the city has to take its place in history. But we should always be aware that Odesa has also had the other past (even if Turkish! Even if Greek!). And what is most important – Odesa has its future. And this future is within contemporary Ukraine. It means that the Ukrainian string from the past of the city (it’s been there! And it’s there now!) is to go louder.
Certainly, I am an idealist in the sense of having quite an idealistic goal. But I am also a realist and even pessimist when it comes to the ways and terms of achieving this goal. And it’s important to move this way. And don’t keep silent those who agree with me!