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site.btaBulgarians in Odessa: War Has Left Only One Working Member in Many Families

Bulgarians in Odessa: War Has Left Only One Working Member in Many Families
Bulgarians in Odessa: War Has Left Only One Working Member in Many Families
Odessa (BTA Photo)

Tourism, construction and trade are among Odessa's economic sectors which are worst affected by the war in Ukraine. The standard of living in the Black Sea city has dropped as the war has raged for more than a year now, members of the local Bulgarian community told BTA.

"Prices suddenly tripled while wages did not rise. Many enterprises have been closed. Many families have only one working member," said Marina Malenkova, head teacher of a kindergarten in Odessa. She added: "Only two groups of kids currently attend our kindergarten, and they do it remotely. Therefore, just two teachers get paid, the rest are on standby." Ten out of a total staff of 64 at Marina's kindergarten are working at present. No one goes to the place physically, because it has no bomb shelter.

Soon after the war started in late February 2022, another Odessite, Zinaida Ganeva, left for Bulgaria together with her mother and her brother's family, including his four children. They settled near the Black Sea city of Varna, stayed there for three months, and then returned to Ukraine in summer. Zinaida said: "We thank Bulgaria for the warm welcome and the support provided to Ukrainian refugees. We decided to come back to Ukraine, because my brother and I believe we are more needed in our country, where we can help others."

From Bulgaria, they got in contact with volunteers from Odessa and Mykolaiv and began assisting the army and distressed civilians. Their pre-war business was to sell construction materials. Currently, two of their eight stores in Odessa are operational. "Everything stopped. Construction in the city is practically dead, people are not doing any home repairs. I lost my main source of income, so my mother and I moved to Uman. We lived on the 14th floor back in Odessa and it was unsafe to stay there," Zinaida said.

Trading in one of Eastern Europe's largest wholesale-and-retail centres, the Seventh Kilometre Market near Odessa, has contracted by 70% compared with the pre-war level. Svetlana Nikolova, a Bulgarian, has worked there for over 20 years and runs two ladies' fashion stores.

She complained: "The situation is very complicated. Prices are soaring, and so is the US dollar exchange rate, people have become insolvent. Trade suffered already during the COVID pandemic. The clothes I sell are for formal occasions, but now there are no weddings, no proms, no university leaving balls. Before the war, I was receiving large wholesale supply orders from all over Ukraine, but now my business is barely getting by." Svetlana and her son, too, spent last summer in Varna, and early in autumn she came back in the hope that the situation will settle.

Peter Kashchy, a construction project supervisor, said: "The war has affected the construction business adversely. We can safely estimate that construction in Odessa has decreased by half. Wages in our company have almost halved. Many workers are on unpaid leave until the war ends. At the site I am in charge of, only six or seven people out of a total of 36 are still working." According to Kashchy, sales of newly built property have dropped.

A severe tourism crisis in Odessa has gone into a second year as local beaches are mined and closed to the public. Few people would wish to visit the city, said Valentina Nikolaeva. She has worked in the services sector for 10 years. She owns housing which she rents out to tourists. "Our line of business is directly dependent on tourism. Since it is relatively calm in Odessa, people from across the country come here to work remotely, and they look for a safe place to live in. We used to have many foreign visitors, but not anymore," Valentina said.




By 14:46 on 29.09.2023 Today`s news

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