Mira and Vilen Ostrovsky
Retired Chemistry Teacher and Electrical Engineer MIRA: We came here from Kiev on May 2, 1990. At that time in the Ukraine, anti-Semitism”how can I tell you?”anti-Semitism was at our backs. Not that our colleagues, respectable people, expressed this, but if someone were to go to the tramway drunk without supervision, he might start to taunt us in such a way that we’d have to get away. There were a lot of those heavy moments. In Brighton, we don’t feel any of the terrors of the Ukraine. We have many American acquaintances, and our passports say we are citizens of the United States, and we hold this in high regard.
All photographs by Spencer Heyfron
Retired Program Director
All my life I’ve been in Brooklyn. My mother came from Russia and my father from London, and they met here. When my husband and I moved here from Canarsie, 30 years ago, it wasn’t Russian at all. And then the migration started. I had to retire from the YMCA because I wasn’t equipped to teach Russian. It was time, anyway”I’m not upset. They’re lovely people, the Russians.
Executive Chef at Café Tatiana
My customers, they come from all over the place”Connecticut, Scottsdale, you name it”just to eat my dishes. I didn’t graduate from any professional culinary schools, but I worked at the Russian Tea Room as a sous-chef for many, many years. I make excellent rack of lamb, blini imperial, Russian-Ukrainian borscht. I came from Ukraine in 1979. I was cooking there also, but not as aggressively.
I came here five years ago from Minsk, where I was a repair manager. I simply received a green card and decided to come. I like the vibe and life in Brighton Beach. I go out to the bars; I like Gaprinus. My friend Nikolai and I just came across this old man trying to catch fish by the water, and we simply met and chatted about fishing; this is a fresh skate. I like that you can speak with Russian people here.
Retired Radio Reporter
I came here seven years ago, from Lomza, Poland. I covered news, politics, and arts for Polish radio. I don’t work anymore. I bought this clothing in Manhattan. In Poland, Polish women dress very well. But in America, Polish women also dress well. So I try to follow trends”a little bit like a young woman. I shouldn’t say how old I am. Years don’t matter; it’s how you feel. Yes, my hair is dyed red; today red, tomorrow green”no problem.
I’m from Ternopil, Ukraine. I received political asylum because I wrote a dissident book against the Ukrainian president. A little over three years ago, I came here as a correspondent for the newspaper Ukrainskaya Svoboda. I don’t work for them anymore. I published it in 2006 while I was in America, and now it is read on the radio throughout the country. I live in Staten Island, but Brighton Beach is my favorite place. There are people from my childhood here, people from my hometown. When I’m here, I feel like I’m in Odessa, the famous port city of Ukraine.
Nonna Manashirova and Irina Biniukow
Mother and Wine Distributor
NONNA: We came here in 2001, so that our children could be raised in a free country, go to school and synagogue, and hang a mezuzah on the door, without fear. My husband is a driver, and I take care of the children: I have two boys, 18 and 19, and Nicole is the third. She’s 9 months old. We came to Brooklyn because we had a lot of friends here. I couldn’t speak English at all”I didn’t even know what a table was. But little by little, I went to school and studied, and because of that, I became able to speak better English. But now that I’m with the baby at home, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to speak English, especially in this neighborhood.
Igor Davydov and Abraham Chorenchian
Unemployed and Journalist
IGOR: In Russia, I worked as an electro-mechanical inspector. If I were to have lived here my whole life, I’d be a millionaire. I left Russia in 2001. First I came, and then my wife, Adasa, came. We’ve been married for almost 40 years”it’s our only marriage. We’ve been in Brighton Beach four years. In my opinion, it’s changed for the better. People have become more Americanized, more cultured. In Moscow, they open doors and throw them in your face, but here they help. They say please and thank you. There, it’s not the case. It’s silent.
I was a political prisoner in Ekute. It’s in Siberia. The sentence was for ten years, but I didn’t spend that long there. I was there for eight years, in the coldest camp in the world. It was 60 degrees below zero, Celsius. I left the Soviet Union for America on March 22, 1992. First I lived in a hotel. Then I rented an apartment in Bay Park in Brooklyn. And then I came here, to Brighton Beach. My whole life I worked, and here I love to be on the move on my bike. Movement is life, they say.
I lost my leg in a bombing on July 18, 1942, during the Second World War. I went to the hospital, and they cut off my leg. I’m 72 now, so I was 5 then. Now I have my Social Security, and that’s it. If I had more money, I’d move upstate. But Brighton Beach has very cheap stores, which is good. I don’t have many friends, but I have some. And I have my Chihuahua; this is my best friend. I walk on the boardwalk every day and I go to the gym and I go to the sauna and I go to a pool and I swim. So, this is life.