Leonid Utesov Monument – Honoring a Musical Legend

Odessa is a beautiful city in Ukraine that is rich in history and has an extremely colorful past. One very talented individual brought harmony and culture to a city that was once fighting very turbulent political times and found hope in the melodies that were written from the heart of Leonid Utesov. Of all the musicians from Odessa, Utesov will remain in the hearts and minds of every citizen. Leonid Utesov was the musical savior of the city.

Leonid Utesov, also spelt Leonid Utyosov, was born in Odessa, in the year 1895. Leonid Utyosov was actually born Leonid Osipovich Vasbein, but changed his surname in 1911 when he started his acting career on stage. Despite pursuing a career in acting, he still had the dream of having his own Jazz band burning in his heart. On 8 March 1929 Leonid Utesov and the Jazz band he dreamed of opened their first performance at the Leningrad Small Opera Theatre. He was on his way to becoming the most celebrated and respected musician in Odessa. He was to become a Jazz legend. The band’s popularity started to grow and, before long, they were asked to perform at almost every important event including the Red Square Victory Celebration in Moscow on 9 May 1945. His fame was not limited to his work as one of Odessa’s Musicians, but he became recognized as ‘the people’s artist’ – an honor that was bestowed on him in 1965. On 9 March 1982 Leonid Utyosov passed away, leaving a grieving Soviet Union to mourn the loss of their most beloved musician, songwriter and poet.

The next time you find yourself in Odessa, take a leisurely stroll to the City Garden which is located on Deribasovskaya Street. You will find Leonid Utesov sitting quietly and peacefully on a bench, looking out over the gardens and the hundreds of visitors that mill around. He doesn’t mind if you sit next to him to have your picture taken next to him or just to chat. Unfortunately, the legendary musician does not perform anymore but, while you sit next him on that park bench, you will be able to choose any of Utesov’s songs to listen to in the phone booth near the monument. The love, admiration and devotion to this wonderful musician is evident in the short but powerful inscription at the monument: “To Leonid Utesov – from grateful Odessa”. The monument was erected in memory of Utyosov in the year 2000 and is a wonderful dedication to his inspiring talent and gentle nature. Indeed, he was a true musician who left his beloved country with a song in their hearts and pride in their souls.

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