Trip To Odessa, 2017 – Part 1

Autumn Excursion

As mentioned in the last update, this year’s big holiday trip was to the Ukrainian city of Odessa, in southern Ukraine on the Black Sea. Because there was so much done over the 4 days spent there I have split this update into two parts.

As always we try to take as many photos as possible for our sponsors and supporters back in Scotland, I hope they do the trip justice.

I think it’s also worth mentioning that we did an Autumn excursion to Odessa back in 2012. This was prior to the introduction of the smaller ‘family type’ orphanages, and we were supporting the larger Odinkovka and Tabachnaya orphanages at the time. We made two separate trips to Odessa – the first with 22 children from the Odinkovka orphanage and the second with 28 children from the Tabachnaya orphanage.

It is amazing how things have changed in just 5 years, because this time around we took just over 60 children from the 7 “family type” orphanages we now support. Only one child, 16 year old Tonya, was involved with both trips.

Back in 2012 Tonya was just 11 years old, and the smallest one on the trip. Within a few months of the trip the Odinkovka orphanage had closed, and the children moved to orphanages elsewhere. Early 2013 saw the “family type” orphanages programme rolled out by the government, and Tonya was moved to the Hasanskaya orphanage, the loving home of parents Ludmilla and Yuri. Joining Tonya there from Odinkovka were Dima and sisters Tanya and Lena.

The first photo of Tonya (below) was taken in Odessa in 2012, with Tonya getting looked after by Nastya and Olya from the Odinkovka orphanage. The second photo (taken on the latest trip to Odessa) we see Tonya is now the one that is looking out for smaller children.
I think the two photos show something that I have seen many times…that despite the situation that orphanage children might find themselves in, they can develop strong bonds and be very protective of their younger orphanage “brothers” and “sisters”.

Odessa Day 1

It was the overnight sleeper train that was taken from Dnipro, so we arrived in Odessa at 6.30am all set for a full day of activities. There were two large buses sitting waiting for everyone at the train station, so it wasn’t long before we were on our way to get checked into the hotel.

The children love hotel stays, it is something special for them, so their faces lit up when they saw they were in a tall hotel with balconies. 
Their antics with elevators, visiting rooms and running up and down corridors probably upsets the hotel staff and some guests, but for a couple of days of fun we try to turn a blind eye.

After checking into rooms we all headed to the restaurant for breakfast…and the kids were met with something they’d never experienced before…a self-service buffet!

Every other trip we have been on the children have the meals brought to them, and there is no choice on what they have. Here was a situation where they could pick whatever they wanted, and have as much as they wanted! After the initial shock of what was going, and then clarification on the rules (or lack of them) they rushed the buffet area…the pancake table didn’t know what hit it!

With breakfast out the way it was back on the buses, and into the city centre for a walking tour. We split into smaller groups, and each group had a personal guide to take them on the tour and tell them all the interesting facts and history of the places of interest.


Odessa has a lot of old and interesting buildings, and some amazing architecture. The guide said that a lot of the buildings had French influences to the architecture, as the city flourished in the 18th century when French architecture was very popular.


The tour was very interesting, and the buildings quite spectacular. Even the newly built football stadium had some impressive architecture added to it!

For lunch it was back to the hotel restaurant, although some of the kids looked a bit disappointed that it wasn’t a buffet lunch!

The afternoon excursion was to the Odessa Film Studio. The studio was founded in 1919 and has produced hundreds of films, including many military films, and propaganda films, during Soviet times.

The sets of some of their more famous films have been preserved in the museum part of the tour, and we were also taken onto the set of their latest film called “Anton” (possibly viewing at an “art house” cinema near you in the coming months.
It was interesting to see how a film set was constructed, and how even things like staircases can be built very quickly for certain scenes.
Quite a few of the kids recognised one of the sets for a children’s comedy film.

After the Film Studio excursion it was back on the buses and a short drive back to the hotel for supper and some relaxation after a busy 24 hours.

Odessa Day 2

Most of the second day was taken up with an excursion to see the Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi fortress – a historical fortress from the 13th century. There are not many fortresses in the Eastern part of Ukraine, so seeing historical places such as this are a real treat for the kids.

We were split into smaller groups, and given personal guides to take us round the fortress explaining its history, and some of the battles that had taken place.
At the end of the guided tour everyone had some free time to explore the fortress themselves. Children were able to explore all the old buildings within the grounds, and get up on the walls and walk along the ramparts.

And an opportunity to get a group photo at the entrance to the fortress.

Lunch was served at a nearby restaurant, and then it was back to the buses for the journey back to Odessa.
There was a bit of excitement on the journey back to Odessa, because they knew that they would be going to the famous Odessa Opera for an evening performance. Many of the kids had brought a nice ‘opera outfit’ with them so they could look really nice for this excursion.
The buses made a short stop at the hotel, to allow everyone to get cleaned up and dressed up ready for their trip to the opera.

The opera building looked nice from the outside, and even more stunning on the inside.

And just as stunning as the opera house, were the girls that were all dressed up for the evening.

The opera they watched was called ‘Zaporozhets za Dunayem’ (or Cossack Beyond The Danube). It is a very famous Ukrainian comic opera, about a Cossack and a chance meeting with a Turkish Sultan. The kids were on the edge of their seats watching it!

And as everyone was leaving they mentioned that the opera house still looking pretty good in the dark ..

Everyone was very excited about the opera trip, and said it was one of the most amazing things they’d ever been to!

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Many thanks,

Steven Carr.

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