Monday Apr 11, 2022
A dolphin show has provided some much-needed respite from the horrors of war for several dozen Ukrainians, many of them children, fleeing the heavily bombarded city of Kherson.
For an hour or so, the refugees were able to set aside their cares and enjoy the spectacle of the dolphins leaping, playing with balls and swimming with their trainer at the Nemo Hotel in the Black Sea port city of Odesa.
"I liked everything very much. We have been dreaming about getting to a dolphin show for a long time. Such great emotions," said Irina Borisevich, 35, who fled Kherson with her two young children aged five and three.
"It is a pity that this is happening under such circumstances," she added.
The show, which took place on Saturday, was free for the people from Kherson, as was their accommodation.
"The dolphins are very positive, they don’t care about war," said the service manager at the hotel, Vyacheslav Lutushko.
The Kherson refugees were staying for a few nights in Odesa before moving on as they seek a safer place to sit out the war.
Odesa itself remains under threat of Russian attack, and the dolphinarium is only 5 km (three miles) from an oil refinery bombed by Russian forces on April 3.
Kherson was occupied by the Russian army on March 3, and Ukrainian officials have repeatedly warned that people there are running out of food and medical supplies.
Borisevich, whose husband is a sailor and has been away for three months, described taking 12 hours to drive from Kherson to Odesa, a journey that normally takes three hours but was made far longer because of roadblocks and Russian checkpoints she said they encountered on the way.
"It was scary to drive through Russian checkpoints because they were looking at documents, checking phones, things. They could take away anything they wanted from someone," she said.
Her 5-year-old son Ivan was more focused on the dolphins.
"I liked how they jumped and touched the balls," he said.