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Old people attack

Be ware of old people

UKRAINE | Thursday, 15 May 2014 | Views [74] | Scholarship Entry

Odessa. A rambunctious Ukrainian seaport with an odor of busy summer middays and indolent evenings. Odessa’s unruly and cheerful disposition is a perfect match for my character.The city was founded by Spanish military men, designed by Italian architects, animated by Jewish merchants in the times of Czarist Russia. Rambling around is the best way to plunge into this multicultural salad bowl. Somewhat pompous style of the buildings, gray pyramid of the Potemkin steps, wide boulevards and monuments left a reverent impression, which needed to be accompanied by an acquaintance with the inhabitants of Odessa. I directed my steps to the park.
Here you won’t see people relaxing. Oh no! The locals were immersed into a venturesome activity. In Odessa this game is known to embroil families, to cause fights and raise arguments. In other words, they were playing chess.
Respectable white-headed retirees in Odessa wear round eyeglasses and gray hats. They gather around the tables in the shade of chestnut trees and passionately discuss the course of the game.
A conversation with these charismatic players in the midst of the game seemed unachievable. To draw attention, I opened my mouth and spoke English.
In a minute I was surrounded by dozens of old people. They all talked at once and greeted me with brilliant toothless smiles. In a second all toothless mouths had cigarettes in them. A man who spoke English appeared from nowhere. He called me their “only hope” and started talking with great passion, which made the speech completely incomprehensible. I nodded my head and smiled.
His face expression changed to triumphant. In a minute I was placed before a policeman, serving as a shield between this policeman and thirty aggressive old people.
When I was ready to confess my Ukrainian citizenship, I heard the key word. Checkers. Old people in the parks are separated into chess players and checkers players. They lead a war too cruel and wicked to be described here.
I turned out to be a famous journalist, who was expected to come to Odessa, and I have just promised (!) to advocate the rights of the chess players. When I squealed: “I am a tourist”, the policeman was so glad to have a chance to escape that he took my hand and we almost ran away.
I’ll never forget the day that taught me a very important lesson. Language skills are priceless! English wasn’t my strong side, and I agreed to start a campaign against peaceful checkers players without even realizing it…

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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