WEST VILLAGE, Manhattan (PIX11) — Some Russian-owned businesses in New York City are dealing with backlash over the Ukraine-Russia conflict. They told PIX11 News they too are hurt by what they see happening thousands of miles away, and should not be penalized for what’s going on.
Svetlana “Sveta” Savchitz owns a cozy restaurant in the West Village, named Sveta. She said her motto is “family first,” and over the last couple of weeks, family has been on her mind a lot.
“Last couple of weeks [have been] very hard,” Savchitz said. “My home city is 70% destroyed … 70 to 80% destroyed.”
Savchitz was referring to Kharkiv in northeast Ukraine. It’s right on the border with Russia. Much of the city is destroyed after coming under heavy fire by Russian troops.
Savchitz is half-Russian and half-Ukrainian, with relatives in both countries. She came to New York City more than three decades ago. But if anyone asks, she says she’s from America.
That makes some of the backlash she has received all the more painful. The restaurant’s social media account clearly shows strong support for Ukraine, but that hasn’t stopped the hate-filled emails and phone calls.
Sergiy, a Sveta employee, has Ukrainian citizenship, but was born in Donetsk. At 21, he moved to Moscow before eventually relocating to the U.S. in 2014, after Vladimir Putin first invaded Crimea.
He said he’s afraid backlash and negative comments will “destroy” the business he works for.
While loyal patrons have returned to dine, Sveta has had instances of people coming in, seeing the menu and leaving. The message those running this business want to send is simple: They may sell Russian food, they may speak Russian, but they do not condone the war.
“It’s not politics; it’s just restaurant, it’s just food,” Sergiy said. “We definitely do not support Putin. We all very much love Ukraine. I was really upset when this happened, it’s like nightmare.”