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Liberation of Odessa
Written By: Peter Ayers Wimbrow III
*Click images below to view larger versions.
Liberation of Odessa
The author at The Odessa Hero City Memorial, next to the Hero City Star.
Liberation of Odessa
Liberation Day in Odessa, still reverently observed 70 years later.

    This week, 70 years ago, the city of Odessa was liberated by the Third Ukranian Front, commanded by Rodion Malinovsky. A Front, in Soviet parlance, was the rough equivalent of an army group. For this Front commander, Odessa’s liberation was especially sweet. Odessa was his hometown. In September, Malinovsky would become the seventh man to be named a Marshal of the Soviet Union since the USSR entered the war, and on April 26, 1945, the seventh man to receive the Order of Victory. Only ten other Soviet Marshals received the Order.
    Odessa is located on the Black Sea and is currently the third largest city in the Ukraine, with a population exceeding 1,000,000. Although, it is, now, located in the Ukraine, it is in an area that was conquered by the Russians, under the command of Admiral Josè Pascual Domingo de Ribas y Boyons, in the Russo-Turkish War of 1787-1792. After the conclusion of the war, the Russian Czarina, Catherine the Great, directed Admiral de Ribas to create a new, ice-free, Black Sea port, and appointed him as the new city´s first administrator. He was succeeded, in that position, by General Armand-Emmanuel de Vignerot du Plessis, Duc de Richelieu. The city is still, predominantly, Russian. Odessa’s main street is named for Admiral de Ribas (Deribasovskaya) and the famous Potemkin Steps are topped by a statue of the Duc.
    The city was captured by the Romanian Fourth Army, under the command of Lt. Gen. Iosif Iacobici, on October 16, 1941, after a 73-day siege. Odessa was the largest European city to be captured by a non-German Axis force.
    In December 1942, Odessa became the center for the Romanian Administration of the area Romanians called “Transnistria.” “Transnistria” means across the Dniester River. “Transnistria” was bordered on the west by the Dniester River, on the east by the Bug River, on the South by the Black Sea and on the north by Poland.  Its population was approximately 2.5 million, of which 57 percent were Ukranians, 28 percent Russians and 4.5 percent Romanians. This is the area where the Romanians murdered many Jews - at least 185,000. The behavior of Romanian soldiers in Transnistria often shocked even their German allies.
    The Rumanian administrator for “Transnistria” was Gheorghe Alexianu. His residence and office were located in the Vorontsov Palace, in Odessa. Before the war, he had been a respected law professor at Cernauti University, located in the city of Cernauti, Northern Bukovina, Romania - now the Ukranian city of Cernivtsi. As the Red Army approached, Professor Alexianu was replaced by Major-General Gheorghe Potopeanu, on February 1, 1944. General Potopeanu had previously served as the Romanian Minister of Economy. Professor Alexianu would be executed, along with the Romanian Conducător, Marshal Ion Antonesqu, after a brief trial, on June 1, 1946.
    In February, the Red Army crossed the Bug River into “Transnistria.” The rail line from Odessa west to Lvov was cut by the First Ukranian Front, commanded by Nikolai Vatutin, on March 6, 1944. Ten days later, the Germans assumed total control of “Transnistria.”  In the meantime, the Romanians were carting off everything they could find!
    The Red Army crossed the Prut River on March 25. Three days later, it crossed the Southern Bug River and recaptured Nikolaev, and the Axis began seaborne evacuations of Odessa.
    On April 2, 1944, General Malinovsky’s Third Ukranian Front began the battle to liberate Odessa, now garrisoned by German troops. It would not take the Soviets 73 days to recapture Odessa. The attack was launched in a blizzard by the 8th Guards Army, commanded by Stalingrad hero, Vasili Chuikov, and 46th Army, commanded by Maj.-Gen. Vasili Verbs. One of the soldiers of the 8th Guards Army was a famed sniper, Hero of the Soviet Union, Vasili Zaitsev. He was wounded during the battle for Stalingrad, temporarily losing his sight. But, by now, he was recovered, and back to killing Germans.
    Razdelnaia fell to 37th Army, commanded by Mikhail Nikolaevich Sharokhin, on April 5, cutting the railroad to Tyraspol. This was the last rail line to Odessa. By April 6, the Soviets had isolated the city. The final assault was launched by General Chuikov’s 8th Guards Army and 5th Shock and 6th Armies, commanded by Viacheslav Dmitrievitch Tsvetaev and Ivan Timofeevich Shlemin. On April 10, at 10:00 P.M., the Red Banner was raised above the city’s beautiful Opera House, signifying its return, after 902 days of occupation, to the Soviet fold. The German defenders suffered 160,000 casualties. Fourteen Soviet soldiers were named Hero of the Soviet Union during the city’s liberation.
    On May 1, 1945, Stalin recognized Odessa, Leningrad, Stalingrad and Sevastopol as “Hero Cities.” The title was made official on May 8, 1965 by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. The city celebrates its liberation every year on April 10.
    The city’s residents are famed for their wit and sense of humor. These traits are acknowledged in the poem, “THE DAY OF LIBERATION,” below:

Once again the spring's in the Victory Garden
Once again the 10th of April to Odessa's come,
The memory of that day hardens
This wonderful feeling of freedom without alarm.
About 30 months the occupation of Odessa lasted
The streets and houses by fascists were blasted.
But the nation with sense of humor no one can kill,
The defense of the city was everyone's freewill.
In the sea of sunlight is the blue and free sky,
The wings of the seagulls soared into skywards,
The glory to Odessa city is in the seagulls’ cry,
Wind orchestras play celebrations chords.
The southern sunny city today looks so pretty
And the faces of Odessites as usual are so witty.
Their spirit of freedom is light as the sea breeze,
An Odessite will never bend the knees.
The second birthday, the day of celebration,
The day of spring, the day of liberation.
 
©Larisa Rzhepishevska (Odessa, Ukraine)
 
NEXT: ANZIO
 
Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own. Mr. Wimbrow can be contacted at wimbrowlaw@gmail.com.
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