Secrets of the Black Sea: Why does plankton “travel” from the depths to the surface and back?

The term ‘plankton’ refers to all organisms who are unable to resist a current. As a rule, they are small (except for jellyfish and ctenophores). Plankton can be divided into phytoplankton (micro algae), and zooplankton (small animals, mainly crustaceans). Within the space of a day, many species of zooplankton carry out long-distance (relative to their body size) vertical migrations. In the daytime, they rest in the deepest layers of the water column, and in twilight they return upwards, coming close to or reaching the surface, and concentrating in a thin upper layer. With the sunrise, these species once more return to deep water.

The most noteworthy vertical migrations in the Black Sea are performed by copepods – calanus (Calanus euxinus) and pseudocalanus (Pseudocalanus elongates). They rise from a depth of 100-150m to surface waters rich in phytoplankton. Other copepods also migrate during the day, e.g. oithona (Oithona similis), centropages (Centropages kroyeri), and even a few organisms not related to copepods, such as the predatory arrow worm (Sagitta setosa).

Scientists say that the biological rationale for vertical migration lies in the fact that at night, plankton become less visible to predators, although many migrants glow in the dark and reveal themselves even at night. Moreover, there are a multiplicity of predators, who themselves perform daily vertical migrations. There is also a hypothesis that vertical migrations under conditions of different speeds of current, and at different depths, cause the dispersal of migrating crustaceans’ populations. This dispersal is necessary to prevent the complete predation of phytoplankton by dense accumulations of zooplankton. In this connection, the following analogy can be drawn: herds of hoofed animals moving constantly across the area save their pastures from being completely eaten away. At the least, it is believed that vertical migrations are connected of energy exchange. It is more profitable for zooplankton to spend the majority of the day in the cold waters of the deep pelagic zone, where their metabolic rate is lower.

So, how does plankton know when it is time to go up or down? During the eclipse on the 30th of June 1954, when the solar disc was covered and the luminosity of the sea surface became 17 times lower, more than 70% of plankton organisms rapidly rose from the 14-5m layer to the 5-0m layer. Later, such a rise was noted among all plankton species, which proved that luminosity was the main factor regulating their vertical migrations.

This raises the question: what would happen if luminosity didn’t change for a long time, say for three or four weeks? Would zooplankton follow its usual daily migration patterns? Such a case was observed in the Arctic in the midst of the polar summer, when there was no sunset for more than 24 hours. It turned out that during the polar day, plankton stayed at the same depth without migrating, whilst in autumn, when day and night alternated, it began to carry out its daily migrations again.

It should be said that besides plankton, there are several other large ecological groups in the sea. Nekton are active swimmers, who can determine the direction of their movement and are therefore not at the sole mercy of currents. In the Black Sea, this group is represented first by all by pelagic (i.e. living in open sea waters, not along the seafloor) fish and cetaceans. Marine dwellers, which spend the majority of their life at the seafloor are called benthos. These can be further divided into phyto (algae) and zoobenthos (bottom animals). And what about demersal fish, such as turbots, rays, gobies, blennies, and black scorpionfish? They can swim actively, but almost all the time stay in a thin bottom layer of water or directly at the seafloor, which is why they are known as nektobenthos and benthonekton. Periphyton is a community of fouling organisms which in nature settle first of all on the surfaces of seaweed and macroscopic algae, turtle shells, and on whales’ skin. A separate group is neuston or pleuston, living in the water surface tension area at the air-water boundary. Yes, our Black Sea is very diverse!

The publication was prepared with the financial support of the EU – UNDP project ‘Improving Environmental Monitoring in the Black Sea: Selected measures’ (EMBLAS-Plus). This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union and UNDP. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union or UNDP

Authors: B. Aleksandrov, O. Adrianova, N. Atamas, V. Bolshakov, O. Bondarenko, I. Chernichko, V. Demchenko, S. Dyatlov, Y. Dykhanov, E. Dykyi, O. Garkusha, P. Gol’din, S. Hutornoy, V. Komorin, Y. Kvach, V. Mamaev, O. Manturova, O. Marushevska, A. Mikelyan, Yu. Mikhalev, G. Minicheva, I. Sinegub, T. Shiganova, J. Slobodnik, A. Snigiryova, M. Son, K. Vishnyakova, A. Zotov. Illustrator: I. Pustovar.

The Bookshelf: How things were done in Odessa

Isaac Babel was a Russian language journalist, playwright, literary translator, and short story writer.  Isaac Babel, the son of a  Jewish  shopkeeper, was born in Odessa, Ukraine, on 13th July,1894. When he was a child he witnessed a pogrom and was deeply influenced by the experience.

I was the one who began.

“Reb Arye-Leib,” I said to the old man. “Lets talk about Benya Krik. Lets talk about his lightning-quick beginning and his terrible end. Three shadows block the path of my thoughts. There is Froim Grach. The steel of his actions— doesn’t it bear comparison to the power of the King? There is Kolka Pakovsky. The rage of that man had everything it takes to rule. And could not Chaim Drong tell when a star was on the rise? So why was Benya Krik the only one to climb to the top of the ladder while everyone else was clinging to the shaky rungs below?”

Reb Arye-Leib remained silent as he sat on the cemetery wall. Before us stretched the green calm of the graves. A man thirsting for an answer must stock up with patience. A man in possession of facts can afford to carry himself with aplomb. That is why Arye-Leib remained silent as he sat on the cemetery wall. Finally he began his tale:

Why him? Why not the others, you want to know? Well then, forget for a while that you have glasses on your nose and autumn in your heart. Forget that you pick fights from behind your desk and stutter when you are out in the world! Imagine for a moment that you pick fights in town squares and stutter only among papers. You are a tiger, you are a lion, you are a cat. You can spend the night with a Russian woman, and the Russian woman will be
satisfied by you. You are twenty-five years old. If the sky and the earth had rings attached to them, you would grab these rings and pull the sky down to the earth. And your papa is the carter Mendel Krik. What does a papa like
him think about? All he thinks about is downing a nice shot of vodka, slugging someone in their ugly mug, and about his horses—nothing else. You want to live, but he makes you die twenty times a day. What would you
have done if you were in Benya Kriks shoes? You wouldn’t have done a thing! But he did. Because he is the King, while you only thumb your nose at people when their back is turned!

“He, Benchik, went to Froim Grach, who even back then peered at the world with only one eye and was just what he is now. And Benya told Froim, ‘Take me on. I want to come on board your ship. The ship I end up on will do well by me.’

“Grach asked him, ‘Who’re you, where d’you come from, what’s your bread and butter?’

“‘Try me, Froim,’ Benya answered, ‘and let’s stop wasting time spreading kasha on the table.’

“ ‘Fine, we won’t waste time spreading kasha on the table,’ Grach said. ‘I’ll try you.’

“And the gangsters called a council together to decide about Benya Krik. I wasn’t at that council, but word has it that they did call together a council. The elder back then was the late Lyovka Bik.

“ ‘Anyone know what’s going on under Benchik’s hat?’ the late Bik asked.

“And one-eyed Grach gave his opinion.

“‘Benya talks little, but he talks with zest. He talks little, but you want that he’ll say more.’

“ ‘If that’s so, we’ll try him out on Tartakovsky,’ the late Bik pronounced.

“ ‘We’ll try him out on Tartakovsky,’ the council decided, and those who still housed a trace of conscience turned red when they heard this decision. Why did they turn red? If you listen, you’ll find out.

“Tartakovsky was known as ‘Yid-and-a-Half’ or ‘Nine-Raids.’ They called him ‘Yid-and-a-Half’ because there wasn’t a single Jew who had as much chutzpah or money as Tartakovsky had. He was taller than the tallest
Odessa policeman, and heavier than the fattest Jewess. And they called Tartakovsky ‘Nine-Raids’ because the firm of Lyovka Bik and Company had launched not eight raids and not ten, but exactly nine raids against his business. To Benya, who was not yet King, fell the honor of carrying out the tenth raid on Yid-and-a-Half. When Froim informed Benya of this, Benya said yes, and left, slamming the door behind him. Why did he slam the door? If you listen, you’ll find out.

“Tartakovsky has the soul of a murderer, but he’s one of us. He sprang forth from us. He is our blood. He is our flesh, as if one mama had given birth to us. Half of Odessa works in his stores. Not to mention, his own Moldavankans have given him quite a bit of grief. They abducted him twice and held him for ransom, and once, during a pogrom, they buried him with chanters. The Slobodka4 thugs were beating up Jews on Bolshaya
Arnautskaya. Tartakovsky ran away from them and came across the funeral march with chanters on Sofiyskaya Street.

“ ‘Who are they burying with chanters?’ he asked.

“The passersby told him that Tartakovsky was being buried. The procession marched to the Slobodka Cemetery. Then our boys yanked a machine gun out of the coffin and started shooting at the Slobodka thugs. But Yid-and-a-Half had not foreseen this. Yid-and-a-Half got the fright of his life. What boss in his place would not have been frightened?

“A tenth raid on a man who had already been buried once was a crass deed. Benya, who back then wasn’t yet the King, knew this better than anyone else. But he said yes to Grach and on that very same day wrote Tartakovsky a letter, typical of those letters:

Most esteemed Rubin Osipovich,
I would be grateful if by the Sabbath you could place by the rainwater
barrel a …, and so on. Should you choose to refuse, which you have opted to
do lately, a great disappointment in your family life awaits you.
Respectfully yours,
Ben Zion Krik

Tartakovsky, not one to dither, was quick to answer:

If you were an idiot, I would write you as to an idiot. But from what I know of you, you aren’t one, and may the Lord prevent me from changing my mind. You, as is plain to see, are acting like a boy. Is it possible that you are not aware that this year the crop in Argentina has been so good that we can stand on our heads but we still cant unload our wheat? And I swear to you on a stack of Bibles that I’m sick and tired of having to eat such a bitter crust of bread and witness such trouble after having worked all my life like the lowliest carter. And what do I have to show for my life sentence of hard labor? Ulcers, sores, worries, and no sleep! Drop your foolish thoughts, Benya.
Your friend, a far better one than you realize, Rubin Tartakovsky

“Yid-and-a-Half had done his part. He had written a letter. But the mail didnt deliver it to the right address. Getting no answer, Benya became angry. The following day he turned up at Tartakovsky s office with four friends. Four masked youths with revolvers burst into the room.

“ ‘Hands up!’ they shouted, waving their pistols.

“‘Not so loud, Solomon!’ Benya told one of the youths, who was yelling louder than the rest. ‘Dont get so jumpy on the job!’ and he turned to the shop assistant, who was white as death and yellow as clay, and asked him:

“ ‘Is Yid-and-a-Half in the factory?’

“‘He’s not in the factory/ said the shop assistant, whose family name
was Muginshtein, his first name Josif, and who was the unmarried son of Aunt Pesya, the chicken seller on Seredinskaya Square.

“‘So who’s in charge when the boss is out?’ they asked poor Muginshtein.

“ ‘I’m in charge when the boss is out/ the shop assistant said, green as green grass.

“‘In that case, with God’s help, please open the safe!’ Benya ordered, and a three-act opera began.

“Nervous Solomon stuffed money, papers, watches, and jewelry into a suitcase—the late Josif Muginshtein stood in front of him with his hands in the air, while Benya told stories from the life of the Jewish people.

“‘Well, ha! If he likes playing Rothschild/ Benya said about Tartakovsky, ‘then let him roast in hell! I ask you, Muginshtein, as one asks a friend: he gets my business letter—so how come he cant take a fivekopeck tram to come visit me at home, drink a shot of vodka with my family, and eat what God has seen fit to send us? What stopped him from baring his soul to me? Couldn’t he have said—Benya, you know, such and such, but heres my balance sheet, just give me a couple of days to catch my breath, to get things rolling—don’t you think I’d have understood? Pigs at a trough might not see eye to eye, but there is no reason why two grown men can’t! Do you see what I’m saying, Muginshtein?’

“ ‘I see what you’re saying,’ Muginshtein answered, lying, because he was at a loss as to why Yid-and-a-Half, a respected, wealthy man, one of the foremost men in town, should want to take a tram so he could have a bite to eat with the family of Mendel Krik, a carter.

“But all the time misfortune was loitering beneath the windows, like a beggar at dawn. Misfortune burst loudly into the office. And though this time it came in the guise of the Jew Savka Butsis, it was as drunk as a water carrier.

“‘Ooh, ooh, ah!’ Savka the Jew shouted. I’m sorry I’m so late, Benchik!’ And he stamped his feet and waved his hands. Then he fired, and the bullet hit Muginshtein in the stomach.

“Are words necessary here? There was a man, and now there’s none. An innocent bachelor, living his life like a little bird on a branch, and now he’s dead from sheer idiocy. In comes a Jew looking like a sailor and doesn’t
shoot at a bottle in a fairground booth to win a prize—he shoots at a living man! Are words necessary here?

“ ‘Everyone out!’ Benya shouted, and as he ran out last, managed to tell Butsis, ‘On my mother’s grave, Savka, you’ll be lying next to him!’ “So tell me, a young gentleman like you who cuts coupons on other people’s bonds, how would you have acted in Benya Krik’s position? You wouldn’t know what to do? Well, he did! That’s why he was King, while you and I are sitting here on the wall of the Second Jewish Cemetery, holding up our hands to keep the sun out of our eyes.

“Aunt Pesya’s unfortunate son didn’t die right away. An hour after they got him to the hospital, Benya turned up. He had the senior doctor called in and the nurse, and, without taking his hands out of the pockets of his cream-colored pants, told them, ‘I have a whole lot of interest that your patient, Josif Muginshtein, recovers. Just in case, let me introduce myself—Ben Zion Krik. Give him camphor, air cushions, a private room, from the depths of your heart! If you dont, then every doctor here, even if they re doctors of philosophy, will be doled out six feet of earth!’

“And yet, Muginshtein died that same night. It was only then that Yidand-a-Half raised hell in all Odessa. ‘Where do the police begin and Benya end?’ he wailed.

“The police end where Benya begins,’ levelheaded people answered, but Tartakovsky wouldn’t calm down, and to his amazement saw a red automobile with a music box for a horn playing the first march from the opera IPagliacci on Seredinskaya Square. In broad daylight the car raced over to the little house in which Aunt Pesya lived. Its wheels thundered, it spat smoke, gleamed brassily, reeked of gasoline, and honked arias on its horn. A man jumped out of the automobile and went into the kitchen where little Aunt Pesya was writhing on the earthen floor. Yid-and-a-Half was sitting on a chair waving his arms. ‘You ugly hooligan!’ he shouted, when he saw the man. ‘You damn bandit, may the earth spit you out! A nice style you’ve picked for yourself, going around murdering live people!’

“ ‘Monsieur Tartakovsky,’ Benya Krik said to him quietly. ‘For two days and nights I have been crying for the dear deceased as if he were my own brother. I know that you spit on my young tears. Shame on you, Monsieur Tartakovsky! What fireproof safe have you hidden your shame in? You had the heart to send a paltry hundred rubles to the mother of our dear deceased Josif. My hair, not to mention my brain, stood on end when I got word of this!’

“Here Benya paused. He was wearing a chocolate jacket, cream pants, and raspberry-red half boots.

“‘Ten thousand down!’ he bellowed. ‘Ten thousand down, and a pension till she dies—may she live to be a hundred and twenty! If it’s ‘no,’ then we leave this house together, Monsieur Tartakovsky, and go straight to my car!’
“Then they started arguing. Yid-and-a-Half swore at Benya. Not that I was present at this quarrel, but those who were, remember it well. They finally agreed on five thousand cash in hand, and fifty rubles a month.

“Aunt Pesya!’ Benya then said to the disheveled old woman rolling on the floor. ‘If you want my life, you can have it, but everyone makes mistakes, even God! This was a giant mistake, Aunt Pesya! But didn’t God Himself make a mistake when he settled the Jews in Russia so they could be tormented as if they were in hell? Wouldn’t it have been better to have the Jews living in Switzerland, where they would’ve been surrounded by first-class lakes, mountain air, and Frenchmen galore? Everyone makes mistakes, even God. Listen to me with your ears, Aunt Pesya! You’re
getting five thousand in hand and fifty rubles a month till you die—may you live to be a hundred and twenty! Josif’s funeral will be first-class. Six horses like lions, two hearses with garlands, chanters from the Brodsky Synagogue, and Minkovsky himself will come to chant the burial service for your departed son!’”

And the funeral took place the next morning. Ask the cemetery beggars about this funeral! Ask the synagogue shamases, the kosher poultry sellers, or the old women from the Second Poorhouse! Such a funeral Odessa had never seen, nor will the world ever see the like of it. On that day the policemen wore cotton gloves. In the synagogues, draped with greenery, their doors wide open, the electricity was on. Black plumes swayed on the white horses pulling the hearse. Sixty chanters walked in front of the procession. The chanters were boys, but they sang with women’s voices. The elders of the Kosher Poultry Sellers Synagogue led Aunt Pesya by the hand. Behind the elders marched the members of the Society of Jewish Shop Assistants, and behind the Jewish shop assistants marched the barristers, the doctors, and the certified midwives. On one side of Aunt Pesya were the chicken sellers from the Stary Bazaar, and on the other the esteemed dairymaids from the Bugayevka, wrapped in orange shawls. They stamped their feet like gendarmes on parade. From their broad hips came the scent of sea and milk. And behind them plodded Rubin Tartakovsky’s workers. There were a hundred of them, or two hundred, or two thousand. They wore black frock coats with silk lapels, and new boots that squeaked like piglets in a sack.

“And now I will speak as God spoke on Mount Sinai from the burning bush! Take my words into your ears. Everything I saw, I saw with my own eyes, sitting right here on the wall of the Second Cemetery, next to lisping
Moiseika and Shimshon from the funeral home. I, Arye-Leib, a proud Jew living among the dead, saw it with my own eyes.

“The hearse rolled up to the synagogue in the cemetery. The coffin was placed on the steps. Aunt Pesya was shaking like a little bird. The cantor climbed out of the carriage and began the funeral service. Sixty chanters supported him. And at that very moment the red automobile came flying around the corner. It was honking I Pagliacci and came to a stop. The people stood, silent as corpses. The trees, the chanters, the beggars stood silent. Four men got out from under the red roof, and with quiet steps carried to the hearse a wreath of roses of a beauty never before seen. And
when the funeral ended, the four men lifted the coffin onto their steel shoulders, and with burning eyes and protruding chests, marched with the members of the Society of Jewish Shop Assistants.

“In front walked Benya Krik, who back then nobody was yet calling the King. He was the first to approach the grave. He climbed onto the mound, and stretched out his arm.

“‘What are you doing, young man?’ Kofman from the Burial Brotherhood shouted, running up to him.

“ ‘I want to give a speech,’ Benya Krik answered.

“And he gave a speech. All who wanted to hear it heard it. I, Arye-Leib, heard it, as did lisping Moiseika, who was sitting next to me on the wall.

“ ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ Benya Krik said. ‘Ladies and gentlemen/ he said, and the sun stood above his head, like a guard with a rifle. ‘You have come to pay your last respects to an honest toiler, who died for a copper half-kopeck. In my own name, and in the name of all those who are not present, I thank you. Ladies and gentlemen! What did our dear Josif see in his life? One big nothing! What did he do for a living? He counted someone else’s money. What did he die for? He died for the whole working class. There are men who are already doomed to die, and there are men who still have not begun to live. And suddenly a bullet, flying toward the doomed heart, tears into Josif, when all he has seen of life is one big nothing. There are men who can drink vodka, and there are men who can’t drink vodka but still drink it. The former get pleasure from the agony and joy, and the latter suffer for all those who drink vodka without being able to drink it.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, after we have prayed for our poor Josif, I ask you to accompany Saveli Butsis, a man unknown to you but already deceased, to his grave.

“Having finished his speech, Benya Krik came down from the mound. The people, the trees, and the cemetery beggars stood silent. Two gravediggers carried an unpainted coffin to an adjacent grave. The cantor, stuttering, ended the prayer. Benya threw the first spadeful of earth and walked over to Savka. All the barristers and ladies with brooches followed him like sheep. He had the cantor chant the full funeral rites for Savka, and sixty chanters sang with him. Savka had never dreamt of such a funeral— you can trust the word of Arye-Leib, an aged old man.

“Word has it that it was on that day that Yid-and-a-Half decided to close shop. Not that I myself was there. But I saw with my own eyes, the eyes of Arye-Leib—which is my name—that neither the cantor, nor the choir, nor
the Burial Brotherhood asked to get paid for the funeral. More I couldn’t see, because the people quietly slipped away from Savka’s grave and started running, as if from a fire. They flew off in carriages, in carts, and on foot.
And the four men who had arrived in the red automobile left in it. The musical horn played its march, the car lurched and hurtled off.

“ ‘The King!’ lisping Moiseika, who always grabs the best seat on the wall, said, following the car with his eyes.

“Now you know everything. You know who was the first to pronounce the word ‘King/ It was Moiseika. Now you know why he didn’t call one- eyed Grach that, nor raging Kolka. You know everything. But what use is it if you still have glasses on your nose and autumn in your heart? . . .”


Translated by Peter Constantine

Ilf and Petrov’s excellent adventure: a look back at Odessa writers’ 1935 trip in the USA

In 1935, the collaborative satirical writers Ilya Ilf (1897–1937) and Evgeny Petrov (1903–1942) travelled to the United States from the Soviet Union on assignment as special correspondents for the newspaper Pravda. The resulting book, “One-Storied America” (Odnoetazhnaya Amerika), was published in 1937 and for decades remained the only expose of contemporary America accessible to the Soviet readers.

Washington and Moscow had recently established diplomatic relations. The United States was mired in the Great Depression. The Stalinist terror was about to get under way in the Soviet Union. World War II was just a few years away.

Such was the state of the world when Soviet journalists Ilya Ilf and Yevgeny Petrov set out in November 1935 to discover America as correspondents for the Communist mouthpiece “Pravda.”

Shortly after their arrival in New York aboard the Fr­ench luxury liner  Normandie, they purchased a Ford automobile and embarked upon a ten-week road trip to California and back. Ilf and Petrov visited America as literary tourists, stopping at major attractions, staying in tourist motels, consulting with AAA for travel advice, and relying upon Russian-speaking tour guides to smooth their way. Like a good tourist, Ilf extensively recorded his trip with his Leica camera. Shortly after their return to the Sovie­t Union, the popular illustrated news magazine Ogonek, a Soviet analogue to Time magazine, published a series of illustrated articles entitled “American Photographs.” Individual installments featured such thematic topics as the road, the small town, Native Americans, Hollywood (where they spent two weeks writing a screenplay for Lewis Milestone), advertising, African-Americans and New York City.

“I first learned of Ilf’s photographs from a review of “American Photographs” written by Alexander Rodchenko in 1936. I was intrigued by the images reproduced with the review: shots of rural highways and road signs that brought to mind the Depression-era images of Walker Evans. Curiously, the title of this series is id­entical to Evans’s American Photographs, a landmark book in the history of photography published by the Museum of Modern Art in 1938.”

(Erika Wolf)

Ilf and Petrov’s journey was also the subject of their final major collaborative project, Odnoetazhnaia Amerika [“Single-Storied America”]. An account of their road trip through the United States, the book expands and incorporates into the travel narrative some of the topical themes first developed in “American Photographs.” The first edition of the book was supposed to feature Ilf’s photographs, but for reasons that remain unknown it was published without any illustrations. Given the political climate in the Soviet Union in 1937, with the onset of the Terror, it is surprising that even an unillustrated version of a book that lovingly satirizes the United States was published. Sadly, both authors died within the next decade. During the trip, Ilf developed his first symptoms of tuberculosis; he passed a­way just as the first edition of the book appeared in print in 1937. Petrov perished in a plane crash while working as a war correspondent in 1942.

Extract and pictures from the book:

On the fifth day of a journey across the Atlantic Ocean, we saw the gigantic buildings of New York. Before us was America. But when we had been in New York for a week and, as it seemed to us, we began to understand America, we were quite unexpectedly told that New York is not at all America. They told us that New York is a bridge between Europe and America, and that we were still situated on the bridge. Then we went to Washington, being steadfastly convinced that the capital of the United States is indisputably America. We spent a day there, and by evening we managed to fall in love with this purely American city. However, on that very same evening we were told that Washington was under no circumstances America. They told us that this was a town of governmental bureaucrats and that America was something quite different. Perplexed, we travelled to Hartford, a city in the state of Connecticut, where the great American writer Mark Twain spent his mature years. Much to our horror, the local residents told us in unison that Hartford was also not genuine America. They said that the genuine America was the Southern states, while others affirmed that it was the Western ones. Several didn’t say anything but vaguely pointed a finger into space. We then decided to work according to a plan: to drive around the entire country in an automobile, to traverse it from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and to return along a different route, along the Gulf of Mexico, calculating that indeed somewhere we would be sure to find America. We returned to New York, purchased a Ford (transportation in one’s own automobile is the least expensive means of travel in the United States), insured it and ourselves, and on a chilly November morning we left New York for America.

For the course of two months before our eyes were roads of white concrete, black asphalt, or gray granular gravel and saturated with heavy oil. At first we were enraptured by these magnificent roads, then we got used to them and then we even got angry, if sometimes due to the repair of a route, we happened to make a small detour on some bumpy bit of old, pock-marked road.

The roads are one of the most splendid phenomena of American life. By December of last year in the United States, there were one and a half million so-called highways: big roads along which autobuses travel day and night according to fixed schedules.

In the east of the country, where automobile traffic is especially heavy, three-lane iron-reinforced concrete roads are prevalent, thousands of miles ruled out with thick white lines. Two lanes for traffic, a middle lane for passing. The closer you get to a city, the wider the road becomes. Its lines run out from under the wheels of the automobile multiplying in number every minute, like railway tracks that increase tenfold upon nearing the proximity of a big train station.

This photograph [above] shows the approach to the city of San Diego, California. This state is proud of its roads and in advertising prospectuses it never fails to mention them. However, we found such roads on the outskirts of all more or less large American cities.

Sometimes, especially in the mountains or national parks, we were suddenly enraptured by the emerging landscapes. Each turn of the road obligingly opened to us newer and newer perspectives of a beautiful view. The road, furthermore, led us from one landscape to another. It demonstrated nature to the traveler with the skill of an artist displaying pictures to a visitor at an exhibition.

This type of road has its own special designation: scenic road, painterly road. Such roads are laid out with a special aim: to show nature to the traveler, so that it will not fall to his lot to scramble up cliffs in search of a proper observation point, so that the necessary quantity of emotion may be obtained without getting out of the automobile.

Without getting out of the car, the traveler may similarly obtain the necessary quantity of gasoline at the service stations, which stand in the thousands along American roads.

The tank is full. It’s possible to quietly travel onward. However, the gentleman in the striped service cap and leather bowtie does not let the traveler go. The famous American service begins. The man from the gas station opens the car’s hood, checks the oil and water. Then he checks the air pressure in the tires. However, he does not consider his mission complete with this. He wipes the windscreen of the car with a cloth. If the glass is very dirty, he wipes it with a special powder. And then, everything is in order. But now, softened by the service, the traveler himself no longer wants to depart. It seems to him that the hatch of the automobile is not slamming shut tightly enough.

Benevolently smiling, the gentleman extracts a tool from his hind pocket and in two minutes the door is in order! It’s possible to go. But he doesn’t want to. He wants service, a little more of this wonderful and, more importantly, free service. The traveller asks what is the best way to get to a nearby town. In response to this, he receives a first-class map of the state, upon which the man from the gas station sketches the further route of the motorist. On the reverse side of the map are the names of hotels and tourist homes. Also listed are noteworthy places that will be encountered on the road. And all of this is a free bonus for purchasing gasoline. With regret, the traveler abandons the hospitable station attendant, comforting himself only when after 100 miles the gasoline runs low, and when at that very minute it runs low, a new gas station appears without fail on the road, where he is met by the same hospitable man in a striped cap and leather bowtie.

After every thousand miles, it is necessary to change the oil in the motor and to lubricate the engine. This costs $1.50 dollars. A painful moment! “It seems that we recently changed the oil,” says the traveller with sadness.

The usual gentleman with the leather bowtie raises the car on a special stand and suggests that the traveler take a stroll in town. In exactly an hour, the car is again on the ground, more truly on the asphalt. Now it is possible to quietly drive another thousand miles.

A foreigner, not having mastered the English language, may venture onto the American road with an easy spirit. He does not risk getting lost. On these roads it is possible even for a child or a deaf mute to drive independently.

The roads are carefully numbered. The numbers are encountered so often that to get lost on a route is simply impossible. Sometimes two roads come together for a while as one. Then two numbers appear on the pole: the number of the federal road above, and the number of the state road below it.

Sometimes five, seven, or even ten roads come together. Then the quantity of numbers grows along with the pole to which they are attached.

There are many different signs on the road. They are placed close to the ground on the right side, so that they always fall into the driver’s field of vision. They are never tentative and do not require any decipherment. In America you never encounter anything like a mysterious blue triangle in a red square, a sign that it is possible to spend hours racking one’s brain upon trying to figure out the meaning.

The arrow shown in the photograph marks a turn to the left. It is equipped with small circular mirrors that reflect the light of automobile headlamps at night. In this way the sign is self-illuminating. The big black inscription on the yellow ground (it is the most noticeable color) signifies “Slow!” In a similar manner, simply and clearly, are composed the road signs “School Zone,” “Stop,” “Danger,” “Narrow Bridge,” “Speed Limit 15 MPH,” or “Pothole in 300 Feet.” You can rest assured that in exactly 300 feet there will be a pothole. However, such notices appear just as rarely as do potholes.

At the intersections of roads stand columns with thick wooden arrows that indicate directions. On them are the names of towns and the number of miles to these towns.

In the town of San Antonio, Texas, posters hang under the traffic lights at each intersection: “40 traffic deaths for 1935 in San Antonio. Drive carefully!” Sometimes it is possible to observe a rather dark humour in inscriptions of this sort. In the east, we saw along a road the sign: “Drive carefully. Cemetery after the bend.”

By the way, about cemeteries…

Here is the type of cemetery that is encountered most often in America. It is an automobile cemetery.

Taking the place of the old automobiles leaving service are new ones.

This quickly moving, strange-at-first-glance contraption [above] turns out to be a truck with a trailer on which are placed automobiles fresh from the factory. One truck simultaneously carries three or four cars. And this turns out to be cheaper than transporting automobiles by railroad.

In general, a railroad trip in America is an expensive thing. A passenger bus is twice as cheap.

At any time of the day, at any time of the year, on any road, passenger buses with sleeping facilities furiously race across America. They go according to schedule, with a speed of 70 to 80 kilometers an hour.

When at night you see a heavy and menacing automobile flying across the desert, you are involuntarily reminded of Bret Harte’s postal diligences, steered by desperate coachmen.

This picture [above] should be captioned as follows: “Here, this is America!”

And, indeed, when you close your eyes and try to rekindle memories of this country where you spent four months, you don’t imagine yourself in Washington with its gardens, columns, and full collection of monuments, nor in New York with its skyscrapers and its poor and rich, nor in San Francisco with its steep streets and suspension bridges, nor in the mountains, factories, or canyons, but at such an intersection of two roads and a gasoline station against a ground of wires and advertising signs.

Translated by Erika Wolf

Photos by Ilya Ilf. Reproduction of photographs courtesy Sasha Ilf.

“Gypsies”, Odessa 1990. Photographer Ljalja Kuznetsova

Her heroes are human beings who can be close to the heart of anyone, they touch us with their timelessness. Ljalja Kuznetsova is a poet who knows his craft and enriches our lives with the gift of her works. “Gypsies”, Odessa 1990.

Over time, photographs take us from wandering gypsies living in tents on the steppe to gypsy settlements outside of such big cities as Odessa. Now there are houses and the feeling of a closed space … This is not only the world of the gypsies. Other people appear in the frame: Uzbeks and Tatars, actors of traveling circuses. They are renegades, who keep or are held by fate off the highway that tempts millions to move to big cities. Ljalja Kuznetsova also remains in her beloved province and continues to film life in places built to human standards.

Lyalya Kuznetsova, a Bulgar woman, was born in 1946 in the city of Uralsk (Kazakhstan). Graduated from the State Kazan Aviation Institute. She worked as an engineer and took up photography in the late 1970s. Since 1978, she worked as a photographer at the Kazan State Museum of Arts. Participated in meetings of photographers in Lithuania, and in the late 70s she was admitted to the Union of Lithuanian Photo Artists. In the early 80s, she worked as a photographer for the newspaper Vechernyaya Kazan, dealing with issues of modern fashion. Since that time, Lyalya Kuznetsova became an independent photographer and lived with orders for the republican fashion house of Tatarstan.

Since the mid-80s, her work was repeatedly exhibited and published in Europe and the United States, including at The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. Participant of the InterPhoto festival (1996) in Moscow. At the end of the 70s, Kuznetsova removed one of the last gypsy camps in the USSR (in Turkmenistan), a little later her gypsy series continued in the Odessa steppes.

Odessa 1990
Odessa 1990
Uralsk, 1979
Odessa 1990
Odessa 1990
Uralsk, 1979

When they say that I “sing” the free life of gypsies or something like that, I think: the photo that a person takes is partly his self-portrait. When I mastered the camera, learned how the film is developed, how it is all printed, I began to look for an images that were in tune with my heart. Naturally, I did not fight for any rights of the Gypsies, I simply understood that in our society they are deprived of many rights. Most of them are people who go to the horizon, and this horizon is leaving them.

Ljalja Kuznetsova

The photographer is looking for his picture. And when he finds it, he says: yes, ok, it’s mine. That is, this click occurs in the heart. For example, I always knew when I developed the film, which frame to look for. Even Cartier-Bresson said that a combination of what he saw and what is happening in you should occur – this is really so. I have experienced it myself and I can confirm that this is exactly what happens.

Ljalja Kuznetsova

An Ukrainian from Odessa is the new Honorary Consul in New Zealand

During a ceremony online on 28 January 2021, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Singapore Kateryna Zelenko signed an Agreement on the functions and duties of Oleksandr Kyrychuk, the new Honorary Consul of Ukraine in Auckland (New Zealand).

The consular jurisdiction of the new Honorary Consulate of Ukraine will cover the whole territory of New Zealand as the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine reported.

Ukraine continues to develop relations with other countries and extend the presence even at the most remote corners of the world. The activity of one more representative’s office of Ukraine abroad has officially started its work in New Zealand.

Press service of the Ukrainian Embassy in Singapore

During the virtual designation ceremony, Zelenko expressed hope that the Honorary Consulate of Ukraine in New Zealand will further promote political, trade, economic, cultural, and people-to-people relations, and that the new Honorary Consul’s activity will become an example of safeguarding the interests of the Ukrainians in this Pacific country.

Oleksandr Kyrychuk and Kateryna Zelenko (virtual designation ceremony)

The Honorary Consul intends to pay particular attention to improving Ukraine’s economic presence in New Zealand, expanding the export opportunities for our country, and attracting investments into the economy of Ukraine.

Oleksandr Kyrychuk was born in Odessa. Since 2002 he lives with his family in New Zealand and conducts his family business there.

The Honorary Consul of Ukraine can be contacted at:

  • Email: ukrconsul.nz@gmail.com
  • Address: 9 Saleyards Road, Puhoi (ref. 404002), New Zealand 0951

Interview with Steve Osler, Founding Partner of Wildix

Steve Osler, Founder of Wildix, the international provider of Unified Communications, accepted to share with The Odessa Journal some insights of his professional and life experience.

When did it start your passion for information technology, which made you create Wildix?

I was a 10-years-old boy and my mother took me to an IT shop. The salesman was a big talker, who spoke a lot and tried to explain what a computer was to my mother, but she did not understand anything. It was 1985, the computer was very new for that time. And I was listening behind the door to this guy and I caught the idea that information technology was something incredibly powerful. From that moment, I started to study and followed the IT path. My mother bought me my first computer: a Philips MSX home computer, a sort of keyboard connected to the TV.

There are companies that sell their services for their domestic market and others that have the ambition to work on an international level. How did Wildix become a world player?

When we started Wildix, we did not have the idea of becoming a world player. But, when we saw the booming success, the spontaneous demand created by the product, we understood that we developed something bigger than we initially planned. Once we got that international interest and demand, we could no longer be a purely Italian/ local company, we needed to go further so that the product could get international credibility for our customers in other countries.

Dimitri and Steve Osler, UCC Summit 2019
Your brother Dimitri and you are Italians, born in the city of Trento, near the Austrian border. Today, you live and work in Tallinn and Dimitri in Odessa. Is it a professional necessity? Which are the advantages?

Why Tallinn and why Odessa? We chose the best country for R&D, Ukraine, and one of the best countries to run a business. We come from Italy. Unfortunately, Italy is probably the worst country for both. I mean in terms of running an international business. We wanted to remain inside Europe from a business side and so we chose Estonia because it is the most business friendly country in Europe. And Ukraine was chosen before, because it is one of the best locations for R&D. Ukraine is among the 5 main exporters of IT in the world.

Which are the more favourable markets for Wildix today? And which are your next targets?

The most favourable markets are the US and the UK. Our next target is Asia. We had to do it in 2020, but because of the Covid we decided to wait a little bit. It was too complicated to start a new business during this changing situation. So the project was postponed. We will start, hopefully, June 2021.

What the Covid-19 international crisis brought to your company: losses, more clients, new challenges?

All three of them. We lost some old kind of business products we used to sell for offices, because in 2020 their attention to improve offices was much lower. But, on the other hand we got more clients, with those products we made especially for people to work from many locations. So, we lost some business but we got some more customers and more modern business. We had a lot of challenges, because we were used to traveling a lot, our business was based on in person meetings, and we replaced all of them with remote interactions. At the end, for us it was a big opportunity to improve our products and to make them even more useful for a new way of doing business.

During 2020, we had to sell more Cloud solutions. So, our market moved faster. What we expected to happen in 3 to 5 years, happened in 3 months. The crisis was an accelerator, because our market is mainly for small-medium size companies and especially in European countries, many of these companies are owned by 1 or 2 shareholders, who are a kind of old-style thinkers. They were not about to move to the Cloud. But, then we showed them that the Cloud is the solution to keep working in any situation and they got it.

Do you like your job? What makes it interesting?

I like it and what it makes it interesting is our network of partners, about 500 companies, whose business relies on Wildix, and what I like, together with my staff, since we share the same views, is to see how our solutions are helping people to work better, to improve their lifestyle, to avoid risks and personal travelling. We were very happy when we received information from Peru, where a hospital thanks to Wildix succeeded in reducing contacts between doctors and patients, to avoid the Covid transmission. So, they are doing as much as possible remote consultation through our video conference tool and this is what we love about our work, that it impacts people’s life.

Then, going back to the network of our partners, who resell the Wildix solutions, we love to see how happy they are, because not only they are making money with Wildix, but the customer satisfaction with Wildix is much higher than with our competitors. At the end is not only about making money but also making something good and being rewarded for the good work we did. And then we go to the users, that for us is still business, to see the impact on all these people, working happily from home, with less stress, with more productivity. We are happy for them.

Can you tell us an event at work, or an important deal, that you like to remember?

What I still remember is when we started our first international branch. It was in France in 2007. For us it was something incredible. When we started Wildix, we never thought we would have been so successful to open another subsidiary in another country. For me, to be in Paris to start a new business in the French market was something very emotional. It was the first time we sold our products abroad. Because we were born in Italy, I spent all my life in Italy and it was easy for us to have business in Italy. Outside Italy it was something not planned and it really shocked us. It was overwhelming. We were not prepared. We created a product and sold it to friends in Italy and suddenly we received a request of information from abroad, not only from France. In our mind of young guys, born in the middle of the Alps the idea to have created a product that was interesting not only in Italy but also abroad was really something we did not expect.

If you were born again, whom would you like to be?

I would like to be the first worldwide Prime Minister. Not of one country or a union of countries, like the US or Europe, but of a United World with single government, that could proceed without wars and fighting between the countries, to improve the quality of life of people, maybe looking at the sustainability of this world, where we are living, and focusing to find a new home for the time when this world will not sustain us anymore.

Is there a song that you never get bored of listening to?

There are two: one is a piece of classical music, “Winter” from Vivaldi, part of the “Four Seasons”, and the other one is the theme of “Once upon a time in America” by Ennio Morricone. Actually, two Italian composers.

In case of nuclear cataclysm, is there a book or a movie you would save?

If it was for myself, I would keep the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” (Daniel Kahneman, 2011) a book about human behaviour and taking economic decisions, and I found it very useful both for business and human interaction, family and friends. But for humanity, I would save a book about medicine or agriculture. After a nuclear cataclysm, you do not read literature. If it was a movie, I would choose again “Once upon a time in America”.

A journey or an experience that you would like to do, but never had the time to do it.

I would like to have a meditation retreat, but I never did. A place where you stay 10 days without speaking to anybody; a kind of monastery. I wanted to go, but then I had the kid and I failed to go, but this plan is still on the list.

A dream of yours has not yet come true.

To be the number one Provider of Unified Communications in the world.

Which is the best way to contact Wildix to get information about your services?

Just check our website, it is literally the best way to start using our technology and get in touch with Wildix: https://www.wildix.com/contacts/

Winter Promenade at Odessa Opera House

The author of the project is the chief conductor of the theater Vyacheslav Chernukho-Volich.

From January 30 to February 28 at the Odessa National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, the Winter Promenade festival will be held for the second time. This project combines opera and symphonic music conceived by the chief conductor Vyacheslav Chernukho-Volich.

Vyacheslav Chernukho-Volich graduated from the Department of Opera and Symphony Conducting of the Belarusian Academy of Music in 1994 in the class of Professor G.P. Provatorov and his master’s degree in 1996 in the class of Professor A.M. Anisimov. He began his conducting career in 1992 with the Minsk Wind Orchestra “Nemiga”. In 1993 he became the conductor of the Belarusian State Theater of Musical Comedy, from 1995 to 2019 he was the conductor of the National Academic Bolshoi Theater of Belarus.

The maestro’s repertoire includes over 50 operas and ballets of world and national Belarusian classics. Staged about 20 opera and ballet performances in theaters in Belarus, Russia and Turkey. Collaborates with theaters and symphony orchestras of Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Cyprus and China. Participated in numerous opera and ballet festivals in Belarus and other countries.

A programme of winter and holiday music for you this season!

La Traviata

₴ 50-510

Opera performed with two intervals.
Libretto by Francesco Piave based on Alexandre Dumas fils novel « La Dame aux Camélias».

The premiere took place on November 9-10, 2019.


The Nutcracker

31 JANUARY, SUNDAY | 18:30
₴ 50-650

Ballet extravaganza in 2 acts with a prologue.
Libretto by Marius Petipa revised by People`s Artist of Ukraine Sergey.Bondur based on the fairy tale by Ernst Hoffmann “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”.



₴ 50-510

Ballet is performed with one interval.
Libretto by G. Sevoyan, L.Vilvovskaya, M. Dolgopolova, N. Ryzhenko, V. Smirnova-Golovanova based on a drama with the same name by M. Lermontov.

Musical composition and editing by E. Hovhannisyan.


Choral vernissage

₴ 40-330

I part

V.A. Mozart – “Coronation Mass”.

II part

G. Bizet – Toreador’s verses from the opera “Carmen”.
Performed by Vitaliy Biliy, Viktor Shevchenko.
G. Bizet – “Habanera” from the opera “Carmen”.
Performed by Kateryna Tsymbalyuk, Anastasia Martyniuk.
G. Verdi – Stretta Manrico from the opera “Troubadour”.
Performed by Eduard Martyniuk, Oleg Zlakoman.
G Verdi – Azuchena’s song from the opera “Troubadour”.
Performed by Honored Artist of Ukraine Tetyana Spaska, Maryna Godulyan.
P. Mascagni – Santuzzi’s Prayer from the opera “Village Honor”.
Performed by Anna Litvinova, Anna Bondarenko, choir.
G. Verdi – Scene in the square from the opera “Aida”.


Romeo and Juliet. Eternal love story


1 part

S. Prokofiev – Suite from the ballet “Romeo and Juliet”.

2 part

Sh. Gounod – Juliet’s Waltz from the opera “Romeo and Juliet”.
Performed by Alina Vorokh, Anastasia Golub.
Sh. Gounod – Duet of Romeo and Juliet from the opera “Romeo and Juliet”.
Performed by Marina Naimitenko, Pavlo Smirnov.
P. Tchaikovsky – fantasy overture “Romeo and Juliet”.


Pearl seekers


The opera is performed with one intermission.
Libretto by Eugene Cormon and Michel Carré.


“Atlantis” at the Oscars race

Ukraine’s official Oscar entry, the movie depicts an all-too-convincing dystopia, with no fancy gadgets or cars. “Atlantis” is shockingly hopeful.

Despite this year’s atypical situation, European countries are starting to reveal their titles submitted for the Best International Feature Film Award at the 93rd Academy Awards. Originally scheduled for 28 February, the awards ceremony has now been postponed to 25 April due to the coronavirus pandemic, which will undoubtedly have an impact on the year’s calendar.

One of the most acclaimed films on the festival circuit the past year or so has been Valentyn Vasyanovych’s Venice award winner Atlantis. Hauntingly capturing a post-war Ukraine five years from now, the filmmaker depicts this broken landscape in only a select number of shots. Selected as Ukraine’s Official Oscar entry for Best International Feature Film.

Atlantis won best film in the Horizons strand of the Venice Film Festival in 2019 and went on to win several other awards at international festivals. It marks the fourth feature of Vasyanovych, who previously served as producer, cinematographer and editor on The Tribe, which won the Critics’ Week grand prize at Cannes in 2014. 

Atlantis is a territory that once disappeared, just as the powerful industrial region of Ukraine is about to disappear now.

It’s 2025, one year after the Ukraine-Russia war has ended, and former solider Sergey (newcomer Andriy Rymaruk) is struggling to adjust to life outside the military. Unable to sleep and beset by suicidal daydreams, he is clearly suffering from PTSD and shuffles through life as a factory worker at the nearby smelter. When the factory closes, the owners claim that it will be refurbished to accommodate new technologies; Sergey finds employment delivering drinking water to the region’s few remaining inhabitants. The decaying factories and mines have polluted the natural supply.

A chance roadside encounter with Katya (Liudmyla Bileka, also in her first role) brings Sergey into contact with Black Tulip, a volunteer organisation which travels the countryside exhuming bodies in an attempt to identify them, reunite them with relatives or, at the very least, give them a proper burial. Sergey volunteers to assist; a gesture that’s driven, at least in part, by a desire to atone for his actions. While the work is horrendous, its doing brings Sergey some kind of peace, and, as he and Katya grow closer, a chance, perhaps, for some small happiness.

Most of the filming was carried out in and around Mariupol within a radius of 50 km. In the shot we have Azovstal Plant and a quarry located just outside Mariupol, in Granitnoye.

I show quite tough and scary things, but I always keep my distance and do not consider it in detail. I show the general picture, so there is no physical aversion to what the viewer sees, such scary shots.

The interior of the metallurgical plant itself was built at the Leninskaya Kuznitsa, all these ladles were made by the Art Department studio and the talented production designer Vladlen Odudenko.

The biggest stretch of the imagination here is that the conflict between Russian and Ukraine has superficially ended, but its trickling, traumatic effects still linger. 

Jumping a few years ahead, I gave rid of political details

The colour palette of the film in muddy browns and khaki greens underscore the hopelessness and claustrophobia that blight this region; flashes of colour, such as the infra-red cameras that bookend the film or the pouring of red-hot molten steel onto black rock, are both jarring and fleeting. And in an absence of traditional score, sound designer Sergiy Stapenskiy builds an often-overwhelming aural landscape of hard-edged metallic and vehicular sounds, allowing background noise to surge into scenes, effectively replicating the cacophony that’s playing out within Sergey’s own head. It’s only towards the film’s end that natural sounds — thundering rain, birdsong — finally make themselves heard, bringing with them a small but definite sense of hope.


Translate »