Friday, September 24, 2004

Media Training - Odessa, Ukraine

Odessa is one of the most beautiful sea ports I have visited. Its beauty lies in the fact that it doesn't try. And there is the permanent scent of the Soviet past. All streets are laid out in parallel grids, tree lined, dappled and cobbled. It also benefits from the fact that it is twinned with Liverpool - a plus for any city anywhere in the world.

I was told to take care walking out at night or on my own. There was no need to worry, I was fine. Everyone was friendly and at no time did I feel in any danger.

The students at the university were hungry for tips on how to cover the looming parliamentary elections. The sessions were long and the questions were sharp. Little did I realise at the time that we were heading for the Orange Revolution.

The journalists at the Odessa Press Club welcomed me to one of their sessions as a guest speaker, but their questions were fierce compared to those put by the students. We ended on good terms, despite the heat.

I was to return, a year later, for a media training session in the captial Kiev. I was there with Peter Preston of the Guardian Foundation. The atmosphere had changed totally following the Orange Revolution. According to the journalists I was working with, a lot of expectations had not been realised.

Client: BBC World Service Trust