Ukraine - A Cold Night during the Cold War


When I arrived in Odessa, Ukraine in 1988.  It was still part of the Soviet Union and the "Cold War" was still underway.  

It was late September and starting to get cold.   I was part of a tour, which at that time, was the only way you could travel in the USSR.    After a day of flying and touring, we checked into our hotel, a modest place not far from the Black Sea.  

In the lobby, our guide, Alex, explained that the heat and the hot water for all of Odessa came from steam.   And since this was a Communist country, the government provided the steam to all the residents and businesses.   He said the steam would be turned on in a few days, but right now, the government had not turned on the steam to the city.    This was a nice way to say that even though it was cold we would have NO heat and NO hot water in our rooms. 

The single bed in my room did have a blanket.   But upon closer inspection, the blanket was not much thicker than a sheet.  It would not be enough to keep me warm.    I went to the front desk and asked if I could have another blanket.   I got a very "Soviet" answer.  The clerk informed me that guests are only "allocated" one blanket each.   Arguing with him was like arguing with the entire Soviet bureaucracy.  It didn't matter if he had a blanket, I wasn't getting one.  Those were the rules.

Back in my room, I unpacked my clothes and spread them out over the top of the blanket to provide some additional layers.  I put my jacket over my face and tried to sleep.  It was cold and of course there was no hot shower to warm me up.    I didn't sleep well and when morning came, I got dressed and went for a walk.  That's when I took this photo.

Ukrainian woman feeding the pigeons.

I've always liked this photo of the woman feeding the birds with her daughter.  Even here in Ukraine, where people didn't have much, this woman found it important to still share some of her food with the pigeons.  (The jackets the women are wearing will give you an idea of how cold it was.)

I headed back to the hotel where we had a warm breakfast before heading out for another day of sightseeing.

Dates of Travel

  • September, 1988

Places Visited

  • Odessa



This post is part of my series "One Photo - One Country."  I'm am selecting one photo and writing one story from every country I have visited.   Your comments and questions are welcome.  

Post a Comment