Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Iosip Deribas / D. José de Ribas

Adventurers, then and now...

The Opera House in Odessa Posted by Picasa

When you least expect there's the irruption of History into your dinner table, just as you are about to enjoy a braised solomillo in an asador in Las Rozas. You try to keep your attention focused, a difficult job because you pretend you are just listening to Don Marchal while at the same time you are in fact keeping an eye on Clairedelune's reactions to the Sea Adventurer's tales. He has just popped up the name of Odessa ("Adessa" as it's pronounced in both Russian and Ukrainian), and that immediately conjures a vortex of images, names, fragments of memory trash. White Guards.. Denikin.. the flight to Constantinople.. the General Prince Gregory Potemkine ("Patiômkin", in Russian) .. Turkish-Russian Wars.. the mutiny aboard Battleship Potemkine.. WWII battles.. my own holidays in Crimea. I gulp the chilled red Rioja, taste the rare steak, check Clairedelune's smile towards Don Marchal but my mind keeps wandering..
I listen with amazement. Don José de Ribas, a Spaniard, founded Odessa?? (The Honourable Reader can find this text somewhat cramped between the portrait of D. José and a contemporaryary photo of a building in Deribasovaskaya Street, Odessa, Ukraine). I heard it well. It was indeed De Ribas, an Adventurer at the service of Catherine II who commanded in 14 September 1789 the Imperial forces who stormed the fortress of Hadjibey. Born in Naples (which had then a Spanish Sovereign), with Catalan aristocratic blood from his father's side and Irish DNA from his mother's, the talented officer was a soldier of fortune, one of the many adventurers pooled by the Empress. His name had been russified in the meantime to Iosip Deribas. In 1795 Hadjibey (or Chadsbey) became Odessa.
Who are the new Adventurers? The Guinness Book of Record-seekers? The opium-consuming Westerners of the High Himalayas who dropped out at the apogee of the Hippy movement? The sleepless Hackers who enter the Pentagon super-computers? The Jihadists who travel to the Afghan-Pakistan Passes for quasi-military training? A manager of a rent-a-soldier business who departs for Africa to start a coup? I think not.
Don Marchal, though, is an Adventurer allright. For years now he has been engaged in sea travel in a rather peculiar way, climaxing in crossing the Atlantic Ocean in his water scooter, and he wants to travel now from De Ribas' Barcelona to Deribasov's Odessa. (I could see that his physical charisma, his exploits, and maybe his implicit rarefied connections, was damaging the solidity of the pseudo-indifference mask of the listening ladies. Just as Ribas stormed the Hadjibey fortress was the Don storming Clairedelune's defences? Now, the Honourable Reader might detect a iota of jealousy here, and he might not be wrong. Alfa males never take it easily that some other fellow is using words that induce tachycardya in beautifully-eyed females. Nothing personal. Something has always to be done to adjust the male hierarchy around the dinner table).
I realized then that a Blogger can also be an Adventurer..

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