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What it's like to be Russian in America today

“MISHA AND GRISHA ARE WAITING FOR YOU!” (“Misha and Grisha are waiting for you”) - says an advertisement in a local Russian newspaper. They are really waiting - a couple of Russian-speaking auto mechanics born in the USSR who are not so lucky to live in the United States at the very time that the Second Cold War is brewing, Allen Ebel writes in an article for publication Maclean's.

Photo: Shutterstock

“People are crazy,” says Misha Zhuravel, sitting in the office of his workshop. - They say Putin listens on each device. But this is nonsense - no need to wear any devices. Your phone already listens to you 24 hours a day. ”

Spying, snooping, interception, interference, corruption, bugs ... Three million Russian immigrants live in such a reality all the time, from the corridors of Congress to Misha (Mike) Crane and Grisha (Greg) Bevsky in Sudbrook Car Care Center in Pikesville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore with the highest percentage of Russian-speaking population in the country.

“It seems that the Senate and Congress want a second Cold War,” says Misha, a plump and ironic auto mechanic from Minsk, who has lived in the US for a quarter of a century. - This is not Putin doing. I’m not so much a trump supporter, but all the Democrats are guilty. They should sit quietly and let Trump work. Instead, they are “Russia is that, Russia is this”, and in Russia - “America is that, America is this”. This is all propaganda, and Clinton started it because it lost the election. ”

And then once - and the Russian sauce will stop serving, and the team Cincinnati Reds again you have to change the name, as in 1953.

“If you are a Russian-speaking blonde, then you must play tennis and be a spy,” says Svetlana Negrustueva, an international development consultant from Washington, a Russian-speaking blonde. “This is probably a joke, but they say it CONSTANTLY.”

“Are you a spy?” I ask her.

"If", - responds.

While Congress, the FBI and an independent council are investigating Russia's role (if it was at all) in electing Donald Trump, and Mother Russia is again becoming a matter of particular hatred for the shaky American democracy, the 2017 summer is not the best time to wear the Negrustuev name .

“And not a day goes by without talking about Russia in the news. Either Trump will say something, or some hidden agenda from someone else. At every supper now they discuss it. Before Trump came to power, everyone asked me how terrible Putin was. With regard to Putin, there is simply some kind of agony. I think this is the beginning of the next phase of the Cold War. Russia is an easy target, partly because Russians are breastfeeding their culture. It is difficult to speak about this adequately, because the American media presents everything as if Russia was just rushing with a tank at everyone. And the same can be said about America, only that people do not want to admit it, - says Svetlana. - I think the balance of power is good. I am not touched on the streets of Washington - we live here like in a bubble, here people are not so ignorant - but questions still arise. I have one friend in Facebookhe is a republican. As soon as I criticize Trump or the American health care system, or the American education system, he immediately attacks me about Putin. When the meeting of NATO took place, and Trump pushed the President of Montenegro out of the way, my friend reacted as follows: “Well, at least he did not take off his shirt and jumped on his horse.” People used to say to me: “You are not a citizen of America, therefore you cannot criticize this wonderful country”. Well, now I am a citizen, and I can, ”says Negrustuyeva.

“We don't live entirely in Brighton Beach,” says Marina Chester, a software developer in Milwaukee. She moved to the USA with her parents when she was 17 years old. “But our daughter was recently chosen as the leader of a robotic circle at school, as some children said that the Russians had influenced the election. They are mostly joking, nothing serious. We sometimes hear jokes about concentration camps, as they had for the Japanese. But we are citizens of America. Our children can not be distinguished from other American children. But if you watch TV, then raids can happen even tomorrow. How will they do it - on religious grounds? ”- Chester complains.

“On the street or in the store, no one will tell you in person“ Get out of our country, ”says Alexei Tarasov, an oil and immigration lawyer from Russia, who works in Houston and Oklahoma City, a graduate of the University of Oklahoma, probably , the most communist state.

“There is no open discrimination, but there is such an elusive, very cautious attitude. For example, it seems to me that companies now think carefully before hiring a Russian; and these stereotypes that should have disappeared a long time ago, such as the association of Russians with the KGB, an organization that ceased to exist at the beginning of 1990, are still alive in American society. People see a beautiful young Russian woman in a prestigious position, and immediately conclude that she works for Russian intelligence. I tell you this not from films, but from real life, from real clients, ”says Tarasov.

But real life also threw Anna Chapman, who was exposed as a spy in New York on 2010 and who, upon returning to the Kremlin along with nine other agents, received an award from Vladimir Putin. And the 35 diplomats who, in December, the 2016-nd were expelled from the country by Barack Obama. When Putin refused to give the command “to take!” To the same number of American agents, Donald Trump tweeted: “A great move — I always knew that he was very smart!”

The conflict in Syria, Edward Snowden, economic sanctions, Obama's words about Putin, that he looks like a guy who sometimes behaves “like a schoolboy in a back row who is bored”, Hillary Clinton’s alleged involvement in overthrowing pro-Moscow power in Ukraine and losing the election last year. After all this, there is nothing strange in the fact that Congressman Ted Lou from California is wearing a T-shirt with the inscription “TRUMP PUTIN 2016” and tweeting: “My 11-year-old child has just asked if President Trump has Russian roots. It would be very funny if it were not so scary. "

“I read all the time in the press that Russia intervened in the elections,” says Alyona Hofstetter, a school teacher of mathematics in the small town of Carrollton, Illinois (population of 2 500 residents). Her Russian-language posts in Instagram 127 000 subscribers, many of whom live in the countries of the former USSR, read about the life of “average America” under the name Alena_America. “We somehow got a letter to the school that Russia had hacked into the school district’s computer system!” Says Hofstetter. “Do you know how the Americans reacted?” “Oh, those Russians are so smart!”

“So it was when I arrived in this town. For the first few years, they said, “I don't understand her English, so I have a bad grade.” But when they began to get good marks for the tests, this reason to complain was no more. I've been here for five years, and the points are getting higher. Americans don't set homework, and я - I ask. In America, they like to play games with students, and I just teach them. ”

Hofstetter happily notices that, as far as she knows, she is the only Russian residing within 50 radius of kilometers from Carrollton. Her 16-year-old son Igor studies and lives in a specialized academy for the study of mathematics and science closer to Chicago.

“He’s a smart kid,” she says. - But it does not read and does not speak Russian. He considers Russia an enemy. He writes on Facebook that Russia is an enemy. He says: “How could America allow Russia to intervene?” ”.

Hoffstetter believes that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is “not a terrorist, but not a hero either. He stayed too long for the presidency, but the first eight years of Russia benefited. Russia needs a strict president, but as a result he has become a bit of a dictator. I do not like this whole situation, but I respect him. My colleagues voted for Hillary Clinton, and I voted for Trump because he is a businessman, and I hoped that he would take over the economy. We are still waiting".

"This has already begun, and it is much more dangerous than the first Cold War," said Edward Lozansky, a former dissident who was expelled from the USSR in 1976. - “Putin is the Antichrist. Putin is worse than Gaddafi. Putin is worse than Saddam Hussein. Putin is worse than Bin Laden. ” One spark in the Baltic, and the world can come to an end. The president, by and large, is paralyzed. Any hint from him on Twitter that we need to improve this relationship begins: “You're a puppet. You are Putin's puppet. You either pay Putin directly, or you're just a useful idiot. ” In the Soviet Union was the same situation. Either the CIA paid you, or you were considered schizophrenic and locked up in a mental hospital. Here in the mental hospitals do not close. Until".

Lozansky has many projects, commercial and educational, among which is a squash in Washington called Russia housewhich he owns. For many years, lovers of drinking peacefully coexisted in it, despite the "hot" rhetoric from the Capitol. “No one threw stones at the windows,” says Lozansky. “No one boycotted, even in Washington, and Washington hates Trump.”

The concierge in the house where Lozansky lives, used to call him "Mr. Gorbachev", then - "Mr. Yeltsin". Now, because of his lemon-colored pompadour hairstyle, they call him "Mr. Trump." "On the Internet, they call me Putin's puppet." They don't even ask me if I am a spy. They already know. ”

“I remember, during the Cold War, I was called a Russian spy. But then people, at least, were educated. There were programs on Sovietology, and people adhered to the principle of “know your enemy.” But today, I’m afraid of ignorance, hysteria and the fact that people really don’t understand what they are talking about. Moreover, social networks are pouring oil on this hysterical fire, ”says Ksenia Voevodskaya, an education worker from Washington, who helps a group of parents set up a privileged Russian-language school called“ Academy of Tolstoy ”for children ages 5. (Countess Alexandra Tolstaya, the daughter of the author of War and Peace, became an American citizen).

About a dozen men and women gathered in one of the libraries in the city of Washington, some with very young children, to hear Voevodskaya talk about his hopes that the school could be the first step to normalize the presence of the Russian factor in America by Donald Trump.

“I speak Russian and want my child to speak Russian,” can be heard among parents. One woman, who was born in America, says that her son wants to learn the language of Baryshnikov, Dostoevsky and Sharapova to become an astronaut. The presentation about the advantages of the “Academy of Tolstoy” speaks about the hopes that this school can “contribute to a deeper understanding of Russia, its people, history and culture to help eliminate stereotypes.”

“I think we can handle it,” says Alexey Tarasov from Oklahoma. - - American society is very inclusive. This is not the situation in which Jews found themselves in Germany before World War II ... The news is to blame for everything. Russians living in the United States are not necessarily henchmen of the Russian regime and do not necessarily share all the values ​​of the Russian regime. They are proud of their roots and share this pride with their compatriots, but these people live in America, this is now their home, they have children here, and they are as much a part of American society as other immigrants. "

“Putin should not be demonized - this is not Stalin,” Voevodskaya said. “Yeltsin drank, he led Putin, and Putin’s flexible government stabilized the country. The country is stable. We need to calm this rhetoric, otherwise it will all end very badly. ”

Mechanic Misha from Pikesville agrees with this. “Bad will not only be Russian,” he says. “It will be bad for everyone.”

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