Odessa taxi driver Igor Trofimchuk arranged a special trip to celebrate the 82nd birthday of his mother, Nina, near their home in the Ukrainian Black Sea resort city: two nostalgic days at the Soviet-era Zatoka Sanatorium on the sandy beach.
It was crowded. No one wore masks.
But, like most people they know, they also scoffed at warnings about the dangers of the novel coronavirus. In his cab, Trofimchuk would don a mask only if the passenger was wearing one.
Within three weeks of the birthday beach stay in mid-August, his mother — a healthy woman who visited a gym every other day — was dead of covid-19, and he had double pneumonia caused by the virus.
Odessa’s unbridled summer has ushered in a spike in cases across Ukraine — another European hot spot as coronavirus infections flare again in areas across the continent. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it the beginning of a “second wave.”
Health officials have traced some of the new outbreaks back to summer holiday spots where pandemic precautions were often cast aside. But few have produced such a worrisome ripple as Odessa, where vacationers have flocked since Soviet times for beaches, lively cafes along cobbled Derybasivska Street and nighttime parties in the Arcadia district.