The legendary “hero of the two worlds” Giuseppe Garibaldi, reached the decision to dedicate his life to the liberation struggle of the peoples, when he visited Odessa.
The young Giuseppe Garibaldi was not a promising student, therefore his father decided to send him towards the profession of sailor. Like all the young people of his age, Giuseppe was influenced by Romanticism. The profession of sailor offered him the adventure of travelling in the Mediterranean, still infested with pirates at the time.
In 1821, Garibaldi was enrolled in the register of ship’s boys. At sixteen, in 1824, he boarded the vessel “Costanza”. The first city reached in his first journey was really Odessa, in that Black Sea dominated by the Genoese colonies for two centuries, and Taganrog, in the Azov Sea. Garibaldi was sailing from Marseille to Odessa to transport grain. Ukraine was already the barn of Europe at the time.
In 1827 he sailed from Nice with the vessel “Cortese”, but the ship was attacked by Turkish corsairs, who looted the ship, leaving the sailors naked. In August 1828, Garibaldi disembarked in Constantinople, where he would remain until 1832, due to the Turkish-Russian war. Here he integrated into the Italian-Genoese community, historically settled in the district of Galata. He earned his living as a teacher of Italian, French and mathematics. In this period the young Garibaldi came into contact with the republican and patriotic ideas of Giuseppe Mazzini and began to learn the socialist thought of Saint-Simon, through his followers exiled in Turkey.
In February 1832, at the age of 25, Garibaldi received his second-class captain’s license and immediately re-embarked with the vessel “Clorinda”. Once again the ship was targeted by the corsairs and the young captain was injured one hand during the assault. This skirmish was his first fight. In March 1833, he left again for Odessa. Here he met the local dynamic Italian community, which dominated the economic activities of the city. Port contracts, customs controls and trade operations were all conducted in Italian, the lingua franca of the Black Sea trade until the end of the 19th Century.
In the port city Garibaldi was very popular. In particular, the “hero of the two worlds” used to frequent in the evening a tavern in Grecheskaya street, the “Cantina con vini diversi”, where the artists of the Opera Theatre came together at the end of their shows and started up a challenge between the best voices of Odessa in the midst of rivers of red wine.
It was in Odessa, in 1833, where the twenty-six-years-old Garibaldi learned of the existence of the secret society “Giovine Italia“, founded by Giuseppe Mazzini, to liberate his homeland from foreign dominations. Since that moment, he committed himself throughout his life to the liberation struggle of his nation and the oppressed peoples of Latin America and Italy. Further to this resolution, he became a succesful war leader and played a decisive role in the Risorgimento (struggle for the Italian unification).
Today, an Italian cultural and linguistic center, at the Mechnikov University of Odessa, bears the name of Giuseppe Garibaldi.