New York City-based comedian, Yumi Kay, recently went out to eat in Manhattan with her mother at the Russian Samovar. Owned by family friends since 1987, the restaurant was once one of the best places in New York City for Yumi Kay to appreciate Russian art and culture.
“Usually when I go there I’m expecting to hear a lot of Russian songs, but they weren’t playing any,” Kay said.
The owners, like Yumi’s father’s family, fled to the United States many years ago to escape religious persecution and discrimination because they disagreed with Russia’s politics. There’s owning a Russian restaurant in America, and then there’s somebody who’s pro-communism.
Russian Propaganda is Timeless
Yumi’s father left the USSR in the 1970s. His birth certificate has changed to reflect the changing borders within the U.S.S.R. Russia and Ukraine were both once cited as his home country on his official documents.
“There’s a lot of lies and propaganda in Russia,” Kay explained. “[My dad] said that he read in the news in Russia that Black people are still slaves in America.”
Yumi’s family has been directly affected by the misinformation and religious intolerance her father was subjected to at the will of the Russian state.
Expansion Over Peace
“I hope for Ukraine to stay a country,” Yumi Kay said. Russia has always been preoccupied with widening its borders. “Whoever rules [Russia] always tries to get more land.”
Ukraine is fighting for independence, and Yumi is confident that the Ukrainian way of life will survive.
“I just feel bad for ‘the average Joe’, the civilian, because those are the people who are really suffering,” Yumi said.
Hope for the Future
“That’s why I was raised religious; and that’s why it was really important to my father that we were religious, and that we ate a kosher diet, and that we went to synagogue every Friday because he didn’t have the freedom to do that publicly.”
During those times of the USSR, nationalism was almost its own form of religion. There were statues of Lenin everywhere. Yumi comments, “It’s very easy to replace God if you say He doesn’t exist.”
Yumi Kay added, “at least here we have a corrupt government that we can openly talk sh*t about, and we always have.”