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Odessa was my first home. It’s where I learned to swim, ride a bike, speak Russian, my first language, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. With nearly a million people, it is the third largest city in Ukraine. Both a busy Black Sea port and a seaside retreat with a lovely downtown core decorated in the French Baroque style, Odessa is a beautiful cultural destination and and important economic piece of Ukraine’s diverse puzzle.

Odessa is a place of ruin and beauty, which is what this photo essay aims to illustrate. The photos I captured of my home city are devoid of people, and try to show it through the eyes of someone who has been there before, but doesn’t know it in its entirety quite yet. It begins in the port, which is one of Odessa’s best known attributes, and continues into the downtown core, before going to my grandparents’ neighbourhood and into their apartment.

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Many of the buildings downtown are decorated in the Baroque style, and were built in the 1800s.

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After leaving the centre of the city, one begins to encounter a side of Odessa that illustrates the situation in Ukraine today. The sidewalks are cracked and broken. Cars from the Soviet era choke by, driving too quickly and rattling along the cobblestone streets, releasing clouds of dark grey fumes into the air. The paint on the uniform apartment blocs is peeling. Many things in this city, and country are in disrepair.

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I played in this park, which is not far from my grandparents’ apartment, when I was a child.

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This building is adjacent to my grandparents’ apartment.

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Stray cats and dogs are common in Ukraine and many other countries in Eastern Europe.

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My grandparents live on the fourth floor. This is their stairwell.

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This building used to be a daycare where I used to go, but it has been abandoned for many years.

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Odessa, Ukraine will always somehow be my home. It is a place I will keep revisiting and exploring, and I believe that every time I come I will see it in a new light.

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