The Post Office in Odessa, circa 1903. A port on the Black Sea, Odessa has been the site of a Greek colony, part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire. In the Russian–Turkish wars, it was captured by Russia. From 1819 to 1859, the city was a free port and home to Russians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Armenians, Italians, Frenchmen, Germans and traders of many other nationalities. You can bet they mailed a lot of letters home.