In anticipation of writing Tales From Odessa Socalled traveled to Ukraine in search of Babel’s Odessa. He found himself in Moldavanka, the neighbourhood in which Babel’s stories take place. He came back with lots of first-person stories, and with reams and rolls of photographs. Here are just a few:
This is a backyard in Moldavanka. “I went into the church whose steeple you see in the background,” says Socalled. “It was immaculately maintained, silent, shining, quite a contrast from the dilapidation of the neighbourhood that surrounds it.
This is a courtyard in the heart of Moldavanka. Benya Krik may well have lived here with his family.
A market on the way to Moldavanka. “The butcher smiled at me while hacked his pork into bits for sale.”
A typical Odessa courtyard very near to 17 Sofievskaya, where Benya Krik the gangster asks Eykhbaum (his future father-in-law) to leave his 20,000 rubles protection money.
And here is the actual address, where the drop would have taken place, had the fiction been fact.
And amongst is all is the house where Isaak Babel lived, where life in Moldavanka would have worked on his imagination, and perhaps where some of the characters and stories began to take shape.
In places like Moldavanka the cemeteries are rife with history. Socalled searched for one such burial ground. “I walked for 2 hours to find it,” Socalled explains. “No one knew where it was even thought it’s huge. I finally found it after going into a Vietnamese restaurant, using Google Translate from Vietnamese to Russian to English. The delivery man from the restaurant helped me track it down.” Here are some photos of what he found: