I must be honest, three weeks ago, I didn’t have a clue where Odessa was.
I knew it was a city, and that it probably was on some coast, somewhere. Because one of the biggest fish and seafood markets in Montréal is called Odessa. But for some reason, if I had had to guess, I probably would have said that it was in Greece.
But I would have been wrong, since it actually is in Ukraine.
For those of you who wouldn’t know Airbnb, it is an online platform that allows people to rent their home to travelers. I know that some find that weird to sleep in a stranger’s bed. Personally, I prefer to save money, and sleep in a stranger’s bed, than to pay big bucks to sleep in a bed shared with only-God-knows how many strangers over the years…
But that’s just me, and it is besides the point.
Because let’s face it, I am not going to Ukraine this week. We’re low staff at work, and I doubt that my new supervisor would allow me to leave on such short notice. Oh, and yeah, there’s that war thing going on, at the moment (sorry, read military operation). Which doesn’t mean that I can’t help.
So I logged on my Airbnb account (which was a little rusted after a two years break), and I started to check for an affordable ”virtual” stay in Ukraine. I was first scrolling through Kiev’s choices when I realized that most people would probably do the same. That’s when I switched for Odessa, because it is a lovely city, that didn’t get bombed so far, but clearly is on Putin’s agenda.
You’re probably thinking ”But anyone could set an account, and wait for money to rain on them”. And you are absolutely right. That’s exactly why I went to check that the account was active way before the war (sorry, military operation) started. The young lady was also a Super Host, meaning that Airbnb had done a check up on her to make sure she was a real person, offering a real apartment. And she had positive feedback dating back to 2019. I felt safe.
Just to be sure, I sent a private message, stating that I wanted to ”book” her apartment for a night, in order to support her if she needed the help. I wanted to be sure that she still had access to her account and that (crossing fingers, there are a lot of crooks out there), if she didn’t need the money, she’d tell me.
I didn’t expect what happened next.
I got a message back from the owner of the apartment thanking me for the (yet to come) donation, telling me that she had to flee her hometown (she was renting the apartment in Odessa, but she was living in a nearby town that was being bombed every night) with her parents and her little girl, all the way to Montenegro.
For a moment, I had a doubt. If she was safe and well, why sould I give her any money? The rest of the conversation proved me right.
She told me how they had gone on a trip over six country borders, some being very complicated because of very pro-Russian citizens (some countries are just Russian slaves, because of gas). She sent me personal pictures of the destruction in her hometown, telling me how this morning, nine people who had just gotten out of their houses to get some food were killed by Russian soldiers.
She also mentionned how they had left everything behind them, which convinced me that the little money I was about to send her was worth it.
Can it still be a scam? Certainly. But I trust karma, and it will bite her in the butt, if she lied to me.
I will stay in touch with her. To see how things are doing.
If you have a little money to spare, I encourage you to use the Airbnb platform. It requires being a little cautious, but at least, it goes straight to Ukrainian people.
To any country’s people for that matter.
Choose your fight, that’s up to you. But help real people, like me and you.
If you can, of course.
But anyhow… On March 15th, I’m spending a virtual night in Odessa. And it is only my first virtual trip.