Theater club

Strip club owner Tina Shumilova ready to fight Putin’s army ‘to the end’

ODESSA, Ukraine — “Working for Russian TV is a lot of flash and a lot of money,” Tina Shumilova, 38, told The Daily Beast at a volunteer center in the southern city of Odessa. from Ukraine. “You just have to shut off your brain and never wonder what your fucking function is in this life.”

Tina recalled her time in Moscow, during which she said she worked as a journalist at Russia’s main state-funded TV channel, Channel One, before returning to Ukraine several years ago. Now, instead of working for the Russians, she is preparing for an assault as Kremlin forces continue to launch attacks on cities across the country.

After returning to her hometown, Tina said she saved up enough money to become part owner of one of the most popular strip clubs in town.

“It’s a much more honorable profession,” she said. “A lot of times you have a really good time, often a lot of money, almost no responsibility. I really like the men we meet here and I hear all their stories.

Tina said she laughed and clapped when she saw that a former colleague of hers, whom she did not know personally, from Channel One interrupted a live broadcast last week to hold up a sign denouncing the war of the Kremlin against Ukraine, telling the public they were being lied to. “I’m sure that’s not wrong,” she said of the protest. “This ugly channel doesn’t like jokes. Anyway, you can’t fake such an honest message.

The businesswoman now volunteers as a logistics coordinator at a once-trendy food hall that is now used to coordinate the distribution of food, medical supplies and other necessities for townspeople. A huge model Chinese dragon hangs above the masses of volunteers in their high-visibility orange jackets. At the entrance to the food hall, visitors are greeted with a photo of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcoming visitors next to a sign reading “THE NATION IS NOT FOR SALE!”

If war enters Odessa, Tina plans to take up arms with the rest of the volunteers and fight against the Russian troops entering the city. She left her young son in a safe place – she does not want to say where – but trained to fight alongside the military and territorial defenders near Odessa.

“I will fight for my country until the end. Why? Because it’s our country, not Putin’s, not these Russians! she told the Daily Beast.

Like Tina, most residents of Odessa are Russian-speaking and have personal or family ties to Russia. Popular support for Ukraine’s pro-European movement was weak here in 2014. In fact, serious clashes broke out between pro and anti-Maidan movements that culminated in a battle that claimed 48 lives on May 2.

But now that feeling seems to be changing. The residents seem resolutely focused on fighting the Russian invasion.

“Everyone has forgotten what happened before February 24, the start of the invasion. We have all put aside the past and our old problems, and we are all on the same side. It’s fantastic,” says Inga Kordynovska, 30, chief coordinator of the volunteer shelter.

Inga Kordynovska is pictured at her desk.

Tom Mutch

A popular joke in the city is that young men used to bribe them out of conscription. Now they want to bribe them into the armed forces so they can defend their country. “Every day I receive more than 50 calls from people who want to help, we have more offers of help than there is work to do,” Inga explains. “They tell me, I have to do something, I can’t just watch how this fucking crazy Putin is ruining my country.”

Like many port cities, Odessa has a reputation as a hedonist’s paradise, teeming with strip clubs, casinos and glitzy nightclubs. All these places have been barricaded and bagged. The sandy beaches were covered with landmines to prevent the seemingly imminent assault by Russian amphibious landing craft.

It has been very cold here for most of the past two weeks. Heavy snowfall fell all over the city, which is a good thing for the Ukrainian defenders, as the bad weather prevents the Russian forces from launching attacks from the sea. “Thank God for this cold! Inga said. “Every morning we pray, please God, give us a filthy time.”

No one in Odessa pays attention to the air raid sirens anymore. In my hotel, where staff are forced to ring our rooms in the middle of the night if there is an alarm, some guests simply pick up their phones.

Many of the volunteers here are young women who have had many opportunities to leave but have stayed put, even when they had to leave their families to do so. Olha Khazova, a 27-year-old croupier at a local casino, was originally supposed to leave with her sister for the safety of Moldova, but changed her mind and decided to stay in Odessa. “Here I can help my people and do my part to support my homeland,” she told The Daily Beast.

Moscow had long hoped to capture this city and originally made quick gains in its southern offensive from Crimea, having captured the city of Kherson and besieged Mykolaiv, just over 100 km away. The original plan was to perform an apocalyptic-style amphibious landing along the coast. But the Ukrainian resistance has so far saved the city from the terrible fate of Mariupol, which is under an extraordinarily brutal Russian siege that Ukrainian authorities say has already killed more than 2,000 civilians.

After a theater in Mariupol was bombed this week, where first responders are currently pulling people out of the rubble, workers here are scared. “We know now that this will be one of the first places they bomb here, because this is where our people gather and organize,” said a young woman, who did not want to be named, at the Daily Beast.

Artoym Vasuta, 35, was one of Odessa’s top city guides before the war, and his specialty was Odessa’s deep network of catacombs, the extent of which rivals those of Paris and Naples.

“Now, of course, no tourists come here,” he says. “Instead, I show the military around so they can use them to stockpile supplies and set up ambushes for invaders. I know my business will come back and the tourists will come back when we win.

Inga, meanwhile, wants to know when outside countries will step in to help Ukraine.

“We are not even asking you to go to war. We will do it. Just give us the weapons and close the skies! Now many of our refugees go to Moldova. And now Moldova understands, if the Ukrainians cannot stop Putin, he also comes to Moldova, to Romania, to Poland. It’s not our war, it’s the world war! “, she told the Daily Beast. “Putin is destroying entire countries. How many people should die? How many people would have to be killed before enough was enough? »