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War makes them more united than ever

War makes them more united than ever

TV 2 team in Odessa, Ukraine: photographer Pål S. Schaathun and reporter Bent Skjærstad. Photo: Alex Ogonkoff/TV 2

The beach is full of people when we get there. In pairs, volunteers work hard. Bag after bag full of sand.

Then others arrive, and with powerful weapons the sacks are lifted from the shore and tossed onto trucks.

We make our country stronger. We help! We make sure that victory is approaching, says Leonid, and smiles. Sweat is flowing and he barely has time to stop to talk to us.

- Disaster strengthens the United States: Leonid feels that the gang of volunteers on the beach is like one big family.  They all want to preserve their homeland.  Photo: Pål S. Schaathun / TV 2

– Disaster strengthens the United States: Leonid feels that the gang of volunteers on the beach is like one big family. They all want to preserve their homeland. Photo: Pål S. Schaathun / TV 2

Beaches without sand

Since the war began a month ago, volunteers have been doing this work. They must have filled over 400,000 bags. Many beaches in the popular seaside resort of Odessa have already been emptied of sand.

– At first we were 20 pieces, now several thousand come here every day, Alina says to TV 2. She is here with her husband.

– We continue as long as we have bags and sand, she says and smiles.

Finds support and friends

The weather is good, despite the fact that Russian warships lie in the Black Sea, and everyone we talk to fears that they may be attacked at any time.

– In the early days of the war I was terrified. As scared as I ever was. You never know what happened. Julia says and now smiles, I came here to the beach to get a little love.

She wears Ukrainian colors – a yellow jacket and bright blue gloves. She talks and laughs with those around her. Before the war, she did not know any of them. Now they are sitting here with one common goal: to fill as many sandbags as possible.

– I’ve never met them before we meet here on the beach. But now they are my friends. When we are in the middle of a crisis, Ukrainians gather as a family.

A lost job: When the war started, Julia lost the opportunity to work as a training instructor.  Photo: Bent Skjærstad/TV 2

A lost job: When the war started, Julia lost the opportunity to work as a training instructor. Photo: Bent Skjærstad/TV 2

The fear of Russian bombing seems to go away a bit in those here when they’re working hard and being together. On the beach, people find new friends and support. They talk together and laugh. They need it now when war destroys their country.

I test that everyone here is like family. Leonid says that the cruel war that struck us brought us closer, even to those who had completely different backgrounds and lived before in different worlds.

– Why sandbags?

– Buffalo explains that they work very well to stop bullets.

In the center of Odessa you can see the bags at all military checkpoints. They are used in barricades to stop any Russian soldiers or vehicles, but also as protection around valuable buildings and monuments in the city.

Barriers: This is what it looked like in central Odessa after the outbreak of war.  Bags are used for protection and to prevent the movement of vehicles.  Photo: Bent Skjærstad/TV 2

Barriers: This is what it looked like in central Odessa after the outbreak of war. Bags are used for protection and to prevent the movement of vehicles. Photo: Bent Skjærstad/TV 2

Suddenly, all the volunteers on the beach were asked to assemble. It’s time to sing the Ukrainian national anthem. Loudly everyone votes. It is clear that many of them were affected while singing. The patriotism seems enormous.

– During the war, we all became more Ukrainian than ever, says Julia Happy. Not afraid anymore. At least it does not appear.

Standing together: A couple kisses on the beach while the others sing the Ukrainian national anthem.  The unit is strong.  After the anthem, the Ukrainian army was greeted with loud shouts.  Photo: Bent Skjærstad/TV 2

Standing together: A couple kisses on the beach while the others sing the Ukrainian national anthem. The unit is strong. After the anthem, the Ukrainian army was greeted with loud shouts. Photo: Bent Skjærstad/TV 2

Among the many Ukrainians in the cities who had not yet been attacked, the fear of the early days of the war was now replaced by a fighting spirit. Leonid is one of those who believe that the battle against Russia will soon be won, and he warmly welcomes us to return to free Ukraine and Odessa.

– When we win, because we will win, we will build a sand castle so beautiful that you just have to go back to photograph it, he says and laughs well.

Action: Volunteers fill sandbags on the beach in Odessa.  Sandbags are used for barricades and to protect the city from Russian attacks.  Photo: Bent Skjærstad/TV 2

Action: Volunteers fill sandbags on the beach in Odessa. Sandbags are used for barricades and to protect the city from Russian attacks. Photo: Bent Skjærstad/TV 2

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