Archive for the tag ‘russians’

Source: Humans of New York via Facebook

Source: Humans of New York via Facebook

The Facebook account associated with the incredibly popular Humans of New York photoblog ran the above photo on Tuesday, with the subject quoted as saying he participates in an “underground fighting league in Coney Island” run by “the Russians.”

Here’s the full caption:

“The Russians run an underground fighting league in Coney Island where they pay junkies to fight. I fought about fifty fights for them. They pay you $200 win or lose. They’d always make sure I was real doped up before the fight. I mean they weren’t good people but it did make me feel kinda important to have all those gangsters cheering for me. And they’d always be really happy if I won, because that meant I’d made them money.”

The post received quite a bit of attention from our Facebook readers, but no one seems particularly confident the story is true. One reader writes that the fighting league’s existence would be unlikely to stay so secret in the otherwise gossipy Russian community.

“There would be rumors. In all my years in this community I have never heard anything remote to this,” the reader wrote.

Can anyone back this up?

Rabbi Menahem Zarkh leads the memorial service in prayer.

Rabbi Menahem Zarkh leads the memorial service in prayer.

Local survivors of the Nazi atrocities during World War II braved frigid weather to gather with family and friends and commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day yesterday.

Organized by the Be Proud Foundation, about 35 Southern Brooklyn members of the Russian-American Jewish community came together for prayer and remembrance on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp by Soviet troops, when 7,000 remaining prisoners were freed. The day is recognized worldwide in memory of all victims of the Holocaust.

“A lot of relatives of mine died and survived the Holocaust,” said Ruslan Gladkovitser, a member of Be Proud Foundation’s Board of Directors who put the event together. Gladkovitser said his grandmother and aunt were among those killed by the Nazis. “So we celebrate the survivors, and make a memory.”

The service took place in Russian, Hebrew and Yiddish, with local rabbis leading the service in prayer and discussing the importance of remembering the struggles of Jewish people.

Rabbi Avrohom Winner of the Chabad of Manhattan Beach led the Yiddish portion.

“I said thank God we are alive, life is continuing,” he told Sheepshead Bites after the event. “Our gathering is something that represents our victory over our enemies, who have tried to kill all the world’s Jews.

Rabbi Menahem Zarkh of Nevsky Yablokoff Memorial Chapels spoke to the crowd in Russian, discussing the need of the Jewish people to be ever vigilant in the modern world. He noted that Jews still have many enemies, particularly Islamic extremists in Israel.

The Holocaust Memorial Park at Emmons Avenue and West End Avenue became the city’s first public memorial to the Holocaust when it was dedicated in 1985, and the permanent memorial was completed and dedicated in 1997.


A new eatery called Blinoff Creperie has popped up at 2421 Coney Island Avenue, next to the Burger King south of Avenue U.

Blini, for the uninitiated, is a Russian crepe. Very tasty served with salmon caviar and sour creme.

We shot this photo about two weeks ago, so if the doors aren’t open yet, they will be very soon.

The storefront was previously occupied by Verrazano Carpet.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Blinoff!

UPDATE (11:00 a.m.): Facebook user Vika left us a note pointing out that this sign has been up for about three months. So maybe it won’t be open all that soon after all.

Andrei Kirilenko (Source: oso via flickr).

Andrei Kirilenko (right) (Source: oso via Flickr).

The Brooklyn Nets have had a busy off season, making trades for NBA superstars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in their hopes to steal the spotlight away from Carmelo Anthony’s New York Knicks. According to a report by Nets Daily, the team has also added Russian-born forward Andrei Kirilenko, hoping to use his presence to appeal to the Russian population abroad and in Brooklyn.

The Nets are owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov. Prokhorov is a sports fan’s dream as he spends wildly on the team, ignoring salary cap penalties and taxes, kind of like a modern day George Steinbrenner. Besides trying to create a championship caliber team, Prokhorov is doing his best to appeal to the world’s growing interest in the NBA:

“We have a desire to [market] a large number of products in Russian and geared towards Andrei Kirilenko. I think that soon the Russian fans will  able to fulfill this dream,” said the Nets CEO when asked about Kirilenko jerseys.

On Brighton Beach, Yormark said Kirilenko is “the best advertising for Brooklyn in Brighton Beach.”

Yormark also said the Nets hope to play in Russia at some point, noting they traveled to Russia two years ago on their way to China for exhibition games.

“We would like to play in Moscow,” he told ITAR-TASS. “We have been here a couple of years ago, master classes, and would like to do it again. But not this year. January 16 we will hold the London leg of the regular season against the Atlanta Hawks. We will continue to work on expanding our brand in Europe with the help of these away games. I hope that in the future and get to Russia.”

So, I guess Kirilenko jerseys and the man himself will soon make his presence known in Brighton Beach. Pretty cool. Might not be hard to miss the sight of a 6-foot-9-inch athletic looking white guy, so if you see one, be sure to ask for his autograph.

One of the false poll site change postcards sent out to Russian speaking voters, according to Ari Kagan.

One of the false poll site change postcards sent out to Russian speaking voters, according to Ari Kagan.

Ari Kagan, who narrowly lost his bid for the Democratic nod during last week’s primary, is alleging that dirty campaigning from a rival candidate and an anonymous trickster helped bring down his candidacy, and has offered up evidence that suggests an effort to suppress the Russian vote in the 48th District.

According to Kagan, thousands of Russian-language postcards went out to voters of the 48th District, telling them that their poll site had been changed to a non-existent poll site in another district. Kagan said he found out about the dirty trick the night before the primaries as phone calls from supporters began trickling in to his campaign office as well as to his radio show on Davidzon Radio. He has since collected several dozen of them and supplied a copy of the one above to Sheepshead Bites.

It reads:

Information for election
Change location of your election site
Your new:
Co-op 2475 West 16th Street

The location given is actually in the 47th District, and there is no poll site there. Some voters as far away as Avenue O in Midwood received these, and all were in Russian language. They were sent from a Manhattan post office.

Now, Kagan is demanding the authorities look into the matter.

“It needs investigation. It’s a federal crime. We’re not talking about five people, 10 people. I realized how big a crime it was when people began calling me, my friends, my campaign office asking about their polling site,” he said, noting that he tried to minimize the damage by doing a robocall and a segment on his radio show informing voters that cards had gone out with false poll site information.

Kagan was not alone in his outrage.

“It’s absolutely reprehensible and I condemn any effort to intentionally mislead voters. We have to encourage people to be involved in the political process,” said Chaim Deutsch, who won Tuesday’s primary.

“This act was a violation of everything we hold dear in our country,” added Theresa Scavo, who finished in third. “Whoever did this criminal act took away certain individuals’ right to vote and may have caused an upset in the election process. The potential voters could have been on their way to vote for any of the candidates on the slate, maybe me. There should be a thorough investigation and justice must be served.”

The postcards lack a return address and any identifying information, so they’ll be hard to trace back to a source.

Kagan, though, said he suspects his fellow Russian-American candidate, Igor Oberman.

“I suspect it was the campaign that focused during the last week totally on me and not on the district. I suspect the campaign that was the dirtiest in all my memory. That would be Igor Oberman, who ran a divisive, nasty, dirty campaign,” Kagan told Sheepshead Bites. “But this is a suspicion, I have to prove it.”

When asked for comment about the postcards and Kagan’s allegations, Oberman’s campaign offered the following statement: “Neither the campaign nor Igor Oberman have any knowledge of voter suppression tactics of any kind used during the Primary Campaign in the 48th District City Council race.”

Kagan said he believes it’s Oberman because Oberman is the only campaign that went negative, and focused all of its attack ads on Kagan and no other candidate. He cited the CFB complaints we previously reported on, as well as misleading ads taken out by the Oberman campaign alleging Kagan would eliminate Section 8 housing and rent stabilization. He said Oberman booked no such attack ads against other candidates in the race, and none of the other candidates had negative ads at all.

While it would appear that a suppression of Russian-American voters would hurt Oberman as much as Kagan, however, Kagan pointed out that Russians appear to have voted for Kagan over Oberman at a rate of five to one. He suspects that Oberman’s campaign was not aiming to be victorious, but rather to keep a Russian-speaking candidate off the Democratic ballot in order to benefit Republican candidate David Storobin, who Kagan said Oberman is friends with.

The allegation echoes that recently made by Councilman Lew Fidler, who claimed Oberman was a “mole” for Storobin, and had passed the Republican details of Fidler’s campaign strategy while volunteering for him during the 2012 special election in which Storobin and Fidler faced off.

Oberman declined to respond to the charge, but Storobin dismissed it outright.

“That’s completely false. It’s preposterous on so many fronts. First of all, I wish I was that charismatic to get them to throw themselves under the bus for me, but I don’t think I am,” he said. “I think the logical suggestion is that it would be one of the non-Russian candidates in the race, because it’s targeting Russian votes.”

He added that he and Oberman are not friends, but merely friendly acquaintances, although he did not account for why the Democrat contributed to his recent State Senate campaign.

He also said Oberman’s campaign did not bare the marks of one that was attempting to split the Russian vote, with the candidate having focused his spending on younger Russians and non-Russians, rather than the elderly Russians that comprise Kagan’s base.

“You can follow the money trail with most things, and the money trail shows he wasn’t going after Ari’s base. He was going after the young Russians and non-Russians. The amount of money he spent on Russian media was less than 10 percent. It defies all logic,” he said.

Kagan’s argument also appears weakened by the announcement this morning that Oberman would continue his campaign as a third party candidate, which would most likely detract from Storobin’s support from the Russian community.

Prior to the announcement, though, Kagan remained convinced.

“Do I believe [Oberman] was doing it for Storobin? I have a lot of reasons to suspect this. A lot of reasons . And of course, both of them will deny it,” he said. “Igor Oberman served his purpose. He bashed Ari Kagan, and he took some votes away from Ari Kagan. That’s why Storobin didn’t bash Oberman or anyone else. Just me, me, me,” he said, referring to Storobin’s lone attack during the entire campaign.

With the news of the former National Security Agency’s (NSA) Edward Snowden being granted asylum in Russia, WNYC thought it would be interesting to go Brighton Beach to get reactions from former residents of Russia and Soviet Union.

For those who haven’t been closely following the story, Snowden, 29, was a former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) before landing a job with the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, who does work for the NSA. In a stunning report by the Guardian, Snowden blew the whistle on what he believed were constitutionally illegal activities undertaken by the NSA.

In his position, Snowden discovered that the NSA had the capability of casting a vast surveillance net with the power to record and store the private digital information of every American citizen. Snowden also revealed that the NSA was looking to expand its surveillance powers and decided to blow the whistle so that Americans, and the world at large, would know the true extent of of the operation.

Fearing for his safety, Snowden bolted for Hong Kong and then to Russia, seeking asylum from U.S. authorities, who want to bring him in on charges of treason and espionage. A majority of political leaders on both sides of the aisle and President Barack Obama have defended the NSA programs as being vital to win the war on terror.

The WNYC report includes reactions from Russian immigrants range from sympathy to mistrust. Take a listen above and let us know what you think of the irony of a U.S. citizen taking refuge in a country that Americans have assailed for decades over human rights violations.

An attendee at the Be Proud Foundation’s Victory Day dinner last week.

Immigrants from the former Soviet Union celebrated Victory Day on May 9, honoring those who fought in the Great Patriotic War – better known to Americans as World War II – with uniformed veterans sipping vodka and chowing down at events throughout Brighton Beach.

Victory Day marks the surrender of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union on May 9, 1945, nearly four years after Adolf Hitler’s forces invaded during Operation Barbarossa. It remains an important holiday in Russia and the former Soviet states. Historians estimate that between 9 million and 14 million military personnel perished in the fighting, along with between 12 million to 17 million civilians – the highest count in both categories of all nations involved in World War II.

Organizations including the Be Proud Foundation and Shorefront Y of Brighton/Manhattan Beach held events in honor of the holiday last week, and auto clubs toured Southern Brooklyn neighborhoods honking horns and flying flags from former Soviet nations.

Source: Wikimedia Commons via Derek Jensen

When the Boston Marathon bombings shook the nation last week, many Russian immigrants living in the United States began expressing fears that the actions of the two Chechen brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, would limit immigration possibilities for Russians seeking to gain entry to America.

While actions of two terrorists is unlikely to officially change the policy of United States immigration laws, Russians have faced a harder road in making it to America, according to an editorial analysis published by Russian Bazaar and translated by Voices of New York.

Gathering data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and various non-profit human rights organizations, the report concluded that immigration from the former Soviet Union has steeply declined, speculating that in five to six years, Russian-speaking immigrants will account for less than one percent of all U.S. green card and passport holders.

In explaining why immigration from Russian-speaking countries is shrinking, the report presents a list of five speculative reasons. Below I present each reason plus a highlight of the analysis.

The First Reason: The Unavailability of Visas

Today, to obtain a B-1/B-2  tourist visa, it is necessary to provide the consulate with tons of comprehensive information in the form of certificates, contracts, reports, commitments, etc.

In other words, each Russian (Ukrainian, Belarusian, etc.) going to America must have a stable and well-paid job, own an apartment and a car, have a bank account with a decent amount, a spouse, as well as children. Plus, a passport with visas from other (preferably European) countries.

The Second Reason: The Scale of Immigration Fraud in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)

You will laugh, but there are probably more businesses on post-Soviet space offering “guaranteed move to the States for a few thousand dollars,” than immigrants who actually came to the U.S. within the last year. People are fooled into giving away millions of dollars and such promises as “we will increase your chances of winning the green card lottery” or “our company has exclusive ties with the U.S.,” which are used by virtually all “intermediaries.”

As a result, millions of people think that they will soon find themselves in America, while only hundreds of them finally enter. According to human rights organizations, profits from underground businesses concerning “immigration to the United States” in post-Soviet countries are nearing $3 billion a year.

Blind faith in the corruption of the U.S. immigration system plays a bad trick on those devoted to seeing the Statue of Liberty. They assume that if they couldn’t obtain a visa legally, they can try to pay someone extra money to get around the system.

The Third Reason: Disappointment with America

Newcomers complain about cruel and vicious employers, pseudo-lawyers, phony landlords, etc. “We thought that there was a real Russian-speaking community out there, which would give us a hand,” wrote one green card lottery winner. “However, we faced only greed, contempt and indifference from our compatriots. You have to become a wolf to survive there.”

The Fourth Reason: Crime

Like it or not, “our brother” is notoriously known for drunk driving, smoking marijuana, and committing health insurance fraud. Deportees regularly board the planes heading to the capitals of the CIS. This is evident from reports from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office.

Moreover, in 2009, President Barack Obama passed a law according to which green cards holders with a criminal record should be sent home in handcuffs. Therefore, in the last four years, a few thousands of “our” illegals and green card holders have left the United States against their will.

The Fifth Reason: The Reluctance to Reunite with Family

As bitter as it may sound, natives of the Soviet Union, who immigrated to the United States and became full-fledged Americans, rarely use their legal right to reunite with relatives (parents, children, brothers and sisters). By this measure, we fall well behind people from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The Iranians, Cubans and Mexicans, on the contrary, almost never miss an opportunity to bring their family members into the United States.

For immigrants who actually make it to the country, navigating the language barriers, the web of con artists, scammers and limited employment chances is tough for anyone, be they Russian, Mexican or anything else. For those who believe that their ethnic group is unfairly targeted by law enforcement, the government’s treatment of criminals who flaunt the law should not be the stick by which all immigrants’ chances of success are measured. It is already difficult enough for immigrants who play by the rules due to the aforementioned language barriers and shaky economy.

The conclusions drawn from this analysis points to the general difficulty of immigrating to the United States, regardless of the country of origin.

The aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing. Source: hahatango / Flickr

Ripples of sadness and concern rippled through the predominantly Russian neighborhood of Bright Beach when it was learned that the bombings at the Boston Marathon were allegedly perpetrated by two Chechen brothers.

The New York Daily News reported that local Russian immigrants, while saddened by the tragic events in Boston, were also worried that it will now be tougher for Russians to gain entry to the United States.

Reactions from across Brighton Beach ranged from empathy to anger over the alleged acts of terrorism by 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his now deceased brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

“The people who did this listened to the devil,” Elena Rasinkina, 59, told the New York Daily News. “It’s simple — they were evil.”

“I’m glad they found the people who did this. I hope it never happens again,” said 29-year-old Jesse Chase, a local worker at the Best Buy International Food on Brighton Beach Avenue.

Others expressed fear that the actions of the Tsarnaev brothers would make it harder for Russians of all faiths to immigrate to America:

Fara Sabivov, a Russian Muslim who moved to Brighton Beach from Uzbekistan about 10 years ago on a green card, fears that other Russians will be denied entrance into the U.S. because of the Boston bombings.

“Everybody is sad over this,” the 35-year-old restaurant manager said.

“For Russians coming to America, it’s going to be even harder. They’re worried.”

Despite the concern over potentially stricter immigration laws, most were mainly as stunned as the rest of the country over why anyone would perpetrate such a heinous act.

“It’s shocking,” Munira Ruzehaji, 59, a Turkish Muslim told the Daily News. “Who would want to do this?”

Vadim Vasilenko has been in jail since 2007 for allegedly running a money laundering credit card scam operation that involved $47 million dollars, however he has yet to have his day in court.

After years of appeals, arguments, and false starts, Vasilenko is still imprisoned without the possibility for parole and without a firm trial date in place. Getting desperate for any kind of help, Vasilenko has taken to the skies, flying banners over Brighton Beach this month asking both Mitt Romney and Barack Obama for help.

With no response from the presidential candidates, Vasilenko is now hoping that the Virgin Mary will come to his aid, as he plans to fly another plane pleading to Mother Mary herself, according to UPI.

As Vaslikenko awaits his call on divine intervention, you can watch him plead his case to Eyewitness News.

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