Beaches and bliny
A blog about the Russian-speaking community in New York, from Brighton Beach to beyond
A zip down the Q-train takes you to Brighton Beach, the epicenter of New York’s Russian-speaking community. People come for the sun — an afternoon of frying your skin on the beach and then downing Old Country delicacies at at a boardwalk cafe, like butter-bathed pelmeni dumplings or sweet stuffed bliny (blintzes).
But what’s happening in Brighton beyond the boardwalk? For one thing, it’s so much more than Russians. It’s Ukrainians, Georgians, Uzbeks, Tajiks — an atlas of nationalities spanning Europe and Asia. The Soviet Union was vast, and its sphere of influence even wider. Along Brighton Beach avenue you’ll see bright green headscarves and black skullcaps, Turkish kebabs and Georgian khachapuri, Orthodox churches and decidedly unorthodox nightclubs. The neighborhood presents a generous spread of cultural zakuski (snacks) to sample — so come get a taste of Russian-speaking life in New York.
Brighton Beach Jubilee
It’s a Brooklyn tradition that’s lasted over 40 years. Before the summer runs out, people run to Brighton for an eight-block festival and flea market. On Sunday, August 27, I headed out to see what was for sale.
At one of the booths, an organization called Selfhelp was recruiting Russian speakers for a critical task: caring for Holocaust survivors. Recruiter Faye Gotlieb explained the special challenge of caring for elderly people who underwent childhood trauma. The organization, funded by the German government, helps not just concentration camp survivors, but people of any religion who experienced starvation or displacement during World War II.