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Soldiers defending Ukraine’s Odessa present flowers for Women’s Day

A barricade made of sandbags can be seen in the center of Odessa
A barricade made of sandbags is seen in central Odessa, Ukraine, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Iryna Nazarchuk

March 8, 2022

ODESSA (Reuters) – They fear a Russian attack is imminent, but soldiers in Ukraine’s Odessa took time to buy flowers for friends and family for Women’s Day on Tuesday, even as life in the Black Sea port was turned upside down .

“I strangely bought flowers for my mother-in-law and wife to congratulate them on March 8,” said Yuriy, a reservist with the Ukrainian Territorial Defense Forces, at a street stall selling pots of colorful hyacinths, cyclamen, and bouquets of tulips.

“War or no war, our women must be protected, loved and respected.”

Odessa is home to a million people and its port is vital to Ukraine’s economy. Locals have been filling sacks with sand on the beach to erect barriers in the historic city and take part in weapons training, amid growing fears of attack as Russian forces march through Ukraine.

Pentagon officials said Monday that the city of Kherson, about 145 km (90 miles) east of Odessa, has been taken by Russian troops, and Ukrainian Maritime Administration officials said heavy fighting had reached the city of Mykolaiv, between Odessa and Kherson.

Soldier Dmitriy held onto pink and yellow tulips that he had bought for his female comrades.

“She [women] also serve (in the army), they also protect our country, they also help us, they bring positivity… we must always remember them.”

International Women’s Day aims to recognize women’s achievements and highlight the campaign for gender equality. It has a long tradition in Eastern European countries and the former Soviet Union where men often celebrate the day by buying flowers or gifts for women.

Flower seller Alena tied a bouquet of blue and yellow tulips, the national colors of Ukraine.

“I did it for peace, for peace everywhere,” she said.

(Reporting by Alexandros Avramidis; Writing by Deborah Kyvrikosaios; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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Bobby Allyn

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