The flea market in Odessa

The flea market in Odessa is in the center of the Moldavanka, on the Starokonny, that is, Old Horse Fair Street, although the last one who bought here a horse was the carter Pogrom Mendel, Benya Krik’s father. But names have their own history. The first livestock market of the city founded in 1795 was at its then northern border, running from the coastal Primorsky Boulevard along the Torgovaya and Konnaya, that is, Fair and Horse Fair streets to the Kherson, now New Bazaar Square. With the city’s expansion the livestock market was moved in 1832-33 to the Moldavanka, and its street also received the name Konnaya. And when around 1850 the city’s growth also reached the vacant lots around the market, it was further moved to the southern part of the Moldavanka, where it remained as long as, in the twentieth century, the cattle and horses were definitely crowded out from Odessa. So there was a time when in the city there were three Horse Fair Streets at once: the Novaya Konnaya in the south, the central one, renamed Staraya Konnaya, and the oldest one, the street of the New Bazaar in the north, which still bears the simple name of Konnaya.

The most important former and present markets in Odessa. In full screen

The first horse fair, later New Bazaar, at the end of the 19th century

The Starokonny market, however, did not come to an end after the transfer of the horse fair, due to the changes of fashion. In fact, Count (later Prince) Vorontsov, governor of Odessa, simultaneously with the creation of the Starokonny market introduced race riding in the Black Sea cities, Simferopol, Ekaterinoslav and Odessa, where it was pursued on the Langeron Promenade and the Richelieu (then Horse Running) Boulevard by the local playboys. And an indispensable accessory of race horses were hunting dogs and pigeons. They were also available on the Starokonny market, even after the horses were moved to the New Horse Fair, and this is why the market has been also named Охотный or Птичий рынок, that is, Hunters’ or Bird Market. Still today this is Odessa’s largest pet fair: under the covered arcades of the market square a huge aquarist and bird life is bustling, while along the streets around the market the dog and cat, rabbit and poultry, and every other kind of animal breeders offer their animals in long rows.

“Every Sunday Yevzel goes to the hunters’ row, there he sells his doves for the town clerks and the children of the neighborhood.”
Isaak Babel: Cossack Lyubka

However, the biggest attraction of the Starokonny is the flea market, flooding far the streets of the neighborhood with the wares of hundreds or even thousands of vendors. From used clothes to auto parts to false and true antiquities, everyone finds here what he is looking for. You just need time for it. To purposefully walk about all the streets costs not less than two hours, and if you stop here and there, browsing among the books, old postcards and photo albums, it will take you at least a half day.

Besides the overwhelming choice, the flea market has two more great advantages. One is that the prices are very low even in an Eastern European perspective, which is particularly unusual for Odessa, otherwise much more expensive than the average of the Ukraine. Second, you can feel free to look around, browse and consider: no vendor urges you to buy, they do not force their merchandise upon you, but wait with patience until the buyer decides. And in this way the buyer probably buys more. This is also how I bought, after browsing through a couple of photo albums, six old family photos, witnesses of a vanished Odessa, for only seven euros.

Доброй милой Верочке на память от То[…?]To the dear Verochka in memory, from T[…]

The last remaining piece of a large family photo  album. According to the vendor, the lady sitting to the right – the former owner of the album – was called Rutchuk, and before the revolution she was a teacher in Odessa.

Здравствуйте, Папаша и Мама
Я приехал к Вам
Демьян Е[…] Киев [?]

целует дитятка крестный
как и Вася, Таня, Нина
Greetings, Daddy and Mama!
I have arrived to You
Demyan E[…] Kiev [?]

kisses from your godson
and also from Vasya, Tanya, Nina

3 comentarios:

Effe dijo...

Wonderful photos. Flea markets always hide some good stories to find out.

Catherine dijo...

And it is such a pleasure to find family albums and to imagine strange people lives. I remember some Tbilisi album with children in the first pages and then young adults you recognized, and young soldiers from the WWII, and then a second generation, working people, holidays, old ladies and other children…

Rima Staines dijo...

It's so strange: I dreamt of this market, a few months ago, just as it is in your pictures. It was in Eastern Europe, with artefacts, icons, accordions and small metal pendants, all laid out on the ground like that.
But I have never been to Odessa, or the Ukraine....

Greetings from Dartmoor