Social Question

Jeruba's avatar

If you're U.S.-born and English is your first language, would you tell us about a Russian you have known personally?

Asked by Jeruba (55823points) April 4th, 2019
10 responses
“Great Question” (0points)

How do or did you know the person, and what is your view of them? Just a sketch will do.

Mention whether your acquaintance took place in the U.S. or elsewhere. What was the context?

What I’m interested in here is especially whether you felt that there were any cultural or political barriers to your association and how you dealt with those.

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Answers

elbanditoroso's avatar

Back in the late 70s-80s, I personally knew a family of Refusenik Soviet Jews who had been able to sneak out of the Soviet Union (Jews weren’t legally allowed to leave back in those days, and were forcible prevented from doing so). I think that they were in Europe for some medical conference, and never went back to Russia.

They moved to my city. The husband was an MD/researcher and the wife was some sort of scientist who worked in a lab.

Anyway, Nicholas was able to find a job at the local VA hospital, and his wife in some research lab. They went to English classes.

Eventually they had a couple of (American-born) kids, bought a house, and are living the normal life.

There were no cultural or political issues. First, they were thrilled to have escaped, and second, the Jewish community embraced them.

JLeslie's avatar

I have a friend I met in Tennessee when I lived there. I met her because she was dating a friend of mine; they are now married.

She doted on him quite a bit, she kind of fit the stereotype I have of Russia being a macho culture, but not to a ridiculous extreme. He was not the macho sort though.

She and I were in a bad accident together. After over a year, we decided to take legal action, and I was very distraught over the whole thing, and she said to me, “that’s the system.” I felt like it seemed par for the course for a Russian to be more accepting that it’s hard to fight the system, or to go ahead and use the system, but quite honestly, two of our close friends in that circle are accident lawyers, and work the system daily, and they are American born and raised, so maybe I was being unfair to her.

Her family back in Russia supports Putin, and she is inclined to do the same from afar. Not if he is interfering in our ejections, but I mean when it came to Ukraine and some of the other controversial topics in the last ten years.

I don’t talk politics with her much, but she seems to care very much about democracy and capitalism, but when we were hurt, her mom wanted her to go back to Russia for a doctor to check and treat her there. She didn’t do it, but the care she received here was lacking a little in my opinion, and she had great insurance, and her husband makes a lot of money, it has nothing to do with money.

My impression is she first came to America about 15 years ago possibly as an internet bride. I don’t know that for sure though. She divorced her first husband, obviously, and she supported herself, and is now, as I said, married to my friend.

I love her and trust her, and we are just typical girlfriends. Her being from Russia is not something that really affects our relationship in anyway.

When I lived in south Florida I knew a lot of Russians, but they weren’t friends really, just work acquaintances, and unfortunately a few running scams, like credit card scams. The Russian mafia is real. I worked in retail and we couldn’t understand why they weren’t arrested and deported.

One woman I worked with came to the US with her mom. The Jewish Federation paid for their flights. It’s a gift, and the federation ask them to pay it back if they can, but many don’t. Her mother told her, “we are going to pay back every penny, even if it takes 20 years.” She did just that, but they were able to do it in a few years. She said she wanted to pass on the opportunity to another person. This was about 20 years ago.

seawulf575's avatar

When I was a teen, I had a good friend whose parents were “off the boat” Russians. They had immigrated here (legally). My friend was born in the USA so he wasn’t Russian. But his parents were nice. A bit gruff, maybe, but nice….kind and considerate. It never really bothered me that they were from Russia. We used to tease my friend about being a Russkie, but it was obvious teasing and not meant in a mean-spirited way.

KNOWITALL's avatar

A very nice family of Russians lives next door to my cousins way out in the boonies and they’re really nice people. I’m a little in love with their dog. No social or political barriers, they come to party with us sometimes, they’re a little more formal. Love to drive fast.

Missouri has quite a few Russians actually. See article below.
https://www.ksmu.org/topic/generations-russian-divide#stream/0

In Sedalia, Missouri, Russian-speaking Pentecostals constitute as much as 15 percent of the local population, making it perhaps the most Slavic town in America.
https://meduza.io/en/feature/2015/05/20/i-ve-seen-hell-and-it-is-real

Patty_Melt's avatar

There was a janitor at a bakery where I worked thirty years ago. He was a Jewish man who escaped from Russia. He was an elderly man, and spoke almost no English, and understood only a little more.
His kids provided him his way here, but I’m not sure if it was a legal way or not.
He was not at all interested in Russian politics. He just wanted to earn a wage and not think about politics.
I sneezed, and through mostly mime he asked what is said to someone after a sneeze. I told him god bless you. That was our first exchange, and I think my sneeze gave him that knee jerk reaction to say something, and he realized if he did that I would not understand.
After that, I knew he was interested in communicating, so we did what we could with mime and bits of verbalizing.
He told me the popular music is much like our country and western.
He was extremely happy to spend his final years in the US.

I met a woman a couple of years ago. We talked very little, but the situation gave me opportunity to observe her some. She struck me as a bit uppity and thought she and her daughter were above rules and deserved better than they got. She was pleasant in conversation, but her behavior made a different impression.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Back in the late 60s-early 70s I wasted an inordinate amount of time in the chess room of the Mechanics Institute. The Institute itself was (and remains) an absolute jewel of this town. Back then it was unbelievable. Picture a plush magnificent library furnished like a private men’s club, carpets, overstuffed armchairs with membership available to anyone who knew about it at a fee of $6 a year. The Institute also happened to field the premier chess room and strongest club on the West Coast, and for my money, anywhere West of Manhattan. Access to that room (and the club) was included with that $6 membersship-unbelievable! The regulars inhabiting that room were a truly eclectic crowd. Caspar Weinberger hung out there along with hippies, and others so addicted to the game they had abandoned normal existence and subsisted in many of the nearby Indian owned flop house hotels which upon entry the intensity of curry permeating those places made your eyes water. Anyway among the bunch were 2 Russian expatriates, Mr. Tkach who was probably in his 90s and Alexander Sienkevich. There was also Morgan, a retired waiter in his mid 70s— with a magnificent mane of snow white hair, and a unique habit of talking loudly to the board while he played to the great annoyance of some, and the delight of the rest of us. You could be on the other side of the room when the announcement that Morgan had countered some threat rang in the air “GET OUT OF HERE, DON’T EVER COME BACK!” Then “shhhhhh Morgan” from the dissidents. Sometimes at “Get outta here” the rest of the room would chorus “dont ever come back”. Morgan is included in this because although he wasn’t Russian, he was fluent somehow in the language. The chess room would close at 10 PM and those of us inclined would move the party down the block to the Fosters’ coffee shop, where those of us with some money would see after those without—those were better days—when it came to coffee and dessert. Morgan always had more books from the library than his small frame would comfortably support and we would take turns toting some for him and bitching about it. The bunch would of course vary, but the mainstays included a pharmacist, a private detective a genuine bookie, an accountant who was apparently cleaning up dealing grass on the side (and was generous to a fault at the coffee shop) and John the Pacifist who knew everything possible about jazz.

Patty_Melt's avatar

OMG! ^^ the whole post.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know if this is of interest, but after reading some of the other posts I thought I would offer it.

If you want to go back far enough my maternal grandmother’s father was Russian. He came as a child with his parents and siblings. I never knew him, he died at 38, my grandmother was 5 years old. Her mother was Latvian. My paternal grandmother was Russian too, but born in America, and my paternal grandfather came here from Latvia. Russia and Latvia are not one and the same obviously, because the Latvians weren’t happy to be controlled by Russia on and off.

What I can tell you is growing up in my family we didn’t identify as Russian or Latvian as much as we were Jewish. The Pogroms were horrible! Even in Latvia antisemitism was terrible and rampant. My family came to America for religious freedom, safety, and work, and were grateful. That generation tended to not talk about the former countries very much.

I did grow up with Russian dolls, and a love of art, and an appreciation for the performing arts. My aunt and grandma would buy me cute eastern block looking clothing at times as gifts when I was young, embroidered blouses and very Eastern European style coats, but mostly I dressed like a typical 70’s child.

My family was relatively liberal, going all the way back as far as I know, especially the women.

I said above we didn’t identify with Russia or Latvia, but actually it is very common for Jewish people to ask where someone’s family came from. So, we identify in terms of families having similar experiences, and possibly finding a connection, but in those countries I think we weren’t Russian, we were Jewish. Maybe I’m wrong. That’s how it seems though. I think Russian-American Jews in my parents generation and back felt more kinship with Polish-American Jews and German-American Jews than other Russians or other Polish people or other Germans respectively. In fact we are all referred to more commonly as Jewish-American without reference to the country. In my generation and younger it’s probably different for new Jewish immigrants to America. I don’t know.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Anyhow, you may mod away the above paragraph, while I ramble on about Sienkevich. Both he and Ktach had this fascination with words. Ktach would disappear when the chess room closed, but Sienkevich then in his mid 60s would usually be part of the after hours. Here’s his story. He was 15 years old when the revolution erupted in Russia. His father was a successful merchant and apparently rather astute at assessing the situation in his country, for he had been stashing assets abroad for a couple of years when the turmoil erupted. He reacted immediately, and bribed his family onto a train to the far East with a final destination of Yakutsk, headquarters of the family business. So Sienkevich, his mother and 2 younger sisters embarked on the journey, while his dad scurried to Minsk to liquidate some real estate assets. They never saw their father again. When the family reached Yakutsk, they had barely settled in the house adjacent to the import business when urgent word arrived from dad that passage had been arranged for the family to embark for Shanghai without delay. The mother followed her husband’s wishes regarding the kids, but remained herself, with the intention of going to some small town to snatch up her only sister. She entrusted the girls to Sienkevich’s care, saw them off and that was the last they saw of her. The trio arrived in Shanghai without incident, were taken in and looked after by their father’s business associate and his wife, but within 2 weeks the man left in urgency for Russia in an attempt to rescue members of his own family. He too was swallowed up by the revolution never to be seen again. Sienkevich and the wife of the business associate were able to wrangle possession of a shop in Shanghai utilizing some funds his father had stashed in the city. He built up a successful bicycle business that grew and flourished through the years, but never married, preferring the life of the happy bachelor amidst the large crowd of Russian emigres. Then came Mao, the significance of whom Sienkevich apparently missed until it was too late. He arrived in San Francisco virtually penniless as a refugee, where he met morgan who got him a job at the Palace hotel.

cookieman's avatar

My daughter’s classmate in sixth grade was from Russia. That year, their class took a trip to New York City. I chaperoned. So did the Russian kid’s mother.

She spent the whole trip yelling at her daughter, in Russian, about every little thing. The poor kid, who was normally a free-spirit, was afraid to breath practically. What’s more, the mother wouldn’t talk to any of the other parents. Just kept her headphones on between yelling at her daughter.

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