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Why i like brighton beach

Photo: Andrey Barth

Brighton Beach fashionable scold, talk about how awful he is and how badly the people who live there are stuck in the past. Social networks devoted to emigration literally dazzle with photos and texts on this topic. And those who have lived in America for at least a few years often advise new arrivals not only not to settle in Brighton, but even to avoid the area. I am in this sense a person unpopular. I like Brighton Beach. No, I would not want to live here. But I come here with pleasure. And I have a few words in defense of this distinctive place.

Cinema for everyone

I love coming to Brighton in the morning. In any cafe you can order fried eggs and herring with home-made potatoes. And the waiter will not be surprised to want to have such a breakfast with a glass of vodka. Then go to the embankment - the so-called “boardwalk” and admire the sunlight on the surface of the ocean. To gaze at old men and old women who sit on the benches or walk melancholically under the handle. It seems that they did not leave their relatives in Odessa or Kiev. Peep into a tiny drinking room, where you can hear "you respect me?" Breaking through time and distance. Then go to the grocery store and, as if in a toy kaleidoscope, see the motley candy wrappers from the childhood familiar candies - “Belochka”, “Daisy”, “Pioneer”.

Photo: Andrey Barth

Photo: Andrey Barth

And on the next shelf - almost forgotten cheesecakes with cottage cheese and pies with apples.

Photo: Andrey Barth

A "train" will roar overhead, an aunt in an antediluvian stretched sweater will swear, a Mosfilm sign will slyly wink at you - and you no longer understand whether you are in America, in the Soviet Union, or even sleeping. Therefore, I am confident that the unique atmosphere of Brighton Beach must be preserved. And my friends, who come to New York for the first time, I definitely bring here. And believe me, no one has left disappointed yet.

Communism with the grin of capitalism

Today's Brighton Beach is a unique union of the Russian-speaking "ghetto" and the modern district with a thriving business. As Willy Tokarev aptly sang the Brighton minstrel, “beggars and princes live nearby.”

Photo: Andrey Barth

And this is true - in the neighborhood with the elderly, who "vegetate" for social support of the state in social housing, apartment complexes are being built at a price of a million and more. Rusty Chevrolet and the brand new Bentley argue over the parking lot, and on Brighton's beach you can see a swimsuit costing a small car.

Any resident of Brighton will tell you that the region was “ennobled” by the “Russians”. Thanks to them, there is a rather high "rent" for housing, and prices in some restaurants "bite" stronger than in Manhattan. The flip side of the coin is an indestructible "Soviet" spirit that seems to have settled here forever. True, people at Brighton are very similar to those who stormed the stores in the hungry Soviet years. And most of them have not yet come out of this assault. But this is the value of the former resort. This is a living free museum. Uncontrollable time machine in a permanent job, created by the society itself. Permanent movie in which everyone can take part.

From resort to ghetto and back

Brighton has an interesting story. In 1868, it was founded by the Englishman William Engeman. Having bought land on the ocean, he decided to make a resort area here. Hence the name - Brighton - the so-called popular beach area in the UK. The start-up turned out to be quite successful - a luxurious hotel was built in Brighton, USA, and a railway was led to it. It still exists today - in the form of a metro line, or, as even Russian-speaking people here say, “train”.

Photo: Andrey Barth

I remember that in Soviet times, a television program about Brighton Beach caught my eye. The off-screen text said that immigrants from the USSR were forced to live here under a bridge, which trains rumble with a roar, in constant noise, darkness and dampness. Which was captured on video. To take a few dozen steps to the side and remove the picturesque wooden embankment and spacious beaches, the “ideologically seasoned” operator probably did not consider it necessary. And even if he did, it wasn’t in the film. In general, the usual propaganda of the times of the Soviet Union.

But in the late nineteenth century, local New York authorities saw Brighton from a completely different angle. And really made a resort here. After the opening of the hotel and the railway in Brighton, a lot of swimming pools and recreational baths with sea water began to work. There are still buildings in which once sea water was supplied from the ocean through the water supply system, so that residents could take healing sea baths without leaving their homes. The place quickly became very popular among “holiday-makers” and was flooded with ladies and gentlemen having a rest.

Photo: Andrey Barth

On the level of development of Brighton at that time can serve the fact that most of the income in the local treasury brought hairdressing. In a small area there were about twenty of them, and they were all overcrowded. People wanted to look good to fit a popular resort. However, the idyll was stopped by the Great Depression, and then the Second World War. Since the thirties of the last century, the number of “holiday-makers” has sharply decreased, and soon their flow to Brighton Beach ceased altogether. Baths and beaches are empty, hairdressing began to close. More recently, the original resort began to turn into another depressed area of ​​New York. Brighton housing prices began to fall, the poor reached out to the area. Brighton Beach decay and desolation.

Photo: Andrey Barth

Flowers and berries of emigration

The situation was saved by emigration. During the war, those who fled from fascism began to head to the Brighton Promised Coast. They settled here, opened shops and workshops, and gradually life began to improve in the former resort. However, due to the poverty of residents and the proximity of the criminogenic area of ​​Coney Island, Brighton Beach "passed" in the unfavorable almost until the end of the twentieth century. Mass emigration to the USA from the Soviet Union at first didn’t help Brighton in this regard. Although the Russian-speaking population of the region began to grow rapidly since the Soviet authorities allowed Jewish emigration, the first “Russian” emigrants were poor and settled in Brighton precisely because of the low cost of housing and the desire to be closer to their own.

Photo: Andrey Barth

The Russian language became actually official on Brighton, the people from the USSR breathed a new life into the resort, but living on Brighton Beach was still considered undervalued, and it was still dangerous to go to the oceanfront at night. The situation was radically altered by the collapse of the USSR, perestroika, and the new wave of emigration. Now businessmen, combinators and adventurers of all stripes have gone to America. A variety of "businesses" and institutions began to grow by leaps and bounds. Barber shops gave way to restaurants and dumplings, and Americans began to come to Brighton for a "weekend" to see how the Russian soul walks.

Photo: Andrey Barth

It was this generation of immigrants who fully felt the taste of American dollars, so their children went to prestigious American colleges - and eventually, on Brighton signs, here and there, English flashed unprecedented here until now. The next page in the history of Brighton turned over.

Photo: Andrey Barth

Forward to the future

Making predictions about the future of Brighton Beach is as ungrateful as trying to get residents of the area to speak English. Life goes forward, and, of course, over the years, the Brightons, who remember Brezhnev or even Gorbachev, will become less and less. Whether their children and grandchildren want to live in this area is a question.

Photo: Andrey Barth

On the one hand, Brighton today is, as I wrote above, a museum of interesting things and persons in the style of "vintage." On the other hand, this is a damn well-located section of the megalopolis on the ocean, conveniently connected by transport infrastructure to both the center of Brooklyn and Manhattan. So there are a lot of chances to not be on the New York "backyard" at Brighton Beach. Perhaps over time, cryptocurrency will replace the money we are used to, the dumplings will give way to organic food restaurants, and people will learn to speak one universal language. But even then these people will want to sit by the ocean, take a walk along the embankment and remember their past. The main thing is that there should be no war, as our grandparents used to say.

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