Missile strikes push Russian-speaking Odessa’s allegiance toward Ukraine

Pidopryhora is now working on the application for Odesa’s city center to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and she’s pushing for Ukrainian art and culture to be recognized as distinct within the country as well as internationally. She said she knows she “can’t change Odesa’s views alone” but hoped this moment had led to a greater effort “to reshape it, rethink it.”

“Of course there is a great influence of Russian culture. I thought that was OK until the war,” Pidoprhyora said, sitting on a bench in Odesa’s once-bustling open-air Books Market. “I think there will be big changes here in Odesa to be more Ukrainian, to add to the context of Ukraine.”

Though the city has long been a Russian-speaking enclave, some, like Pidoprhyora, are even trying to change that. The war has many more in Odesa working to speak Ukrainian, essentially a second language to some, even if it comes out poorly.

Viktoriia Hrubuyk, 28, has spoken Russian all her life, but she said she is working on speaking only Ukrainian to show her commitment to her country. It can be awkward at times, as many residents still speak Russian, but she doesn’t care.