THEATER DISTRICT, Manhattan (PIX11) — They’ve been boycotted and vandalized for the food they sell, but that didn’t stop a Russian restaurant in New York City from raising funds for Ukraine on Sunday.
There’s a sign on the front door of Russian Samovar clearly telling customers how the staff feels: “Stand By Ukraine. No War.”
Most of the staff at the restaurant is actually from Ukraine. Despite that, business at Russian Samovar dropped by 60% at the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The door to the restaurant was kicked in and hate-filled calls, emails and social media called the Russian-born owner, who is married to a Ukrainian man, a Nazi.
“Coming from a Jewish background, being called a Nazi is something I find very hurtful,” owner Vlada Von Shats told PIX11 News. “When this restaurant opened in the 80s during the Cold War, we had Russophobia. They used to call us Commies and now they’re calling us Nazis.”
But the tide is turning as regular customers are coming back and new ones are showing their support.
“The Russian people are against what their president is doing,” Lucille Prevete, a new customer from Long Island, said. “And the food is out of this world.”
Russian Samovar held a fundraiser Sunday for the family and friends of staff suffering in Ukraine. The restaurant piano player’s niece, a 36-year-old mother of three, was killed in the first days of this war.
“They bombed a village near the airport,” Andrey Solodenko, a Ukrainian-born pianist, said. “She was working there in the army. The first bomb got her.”
Other restaurants through the city are also during their part. At Veselka, a Ukrainian restaurant in the East Village, they are collecting donations with 100% of the proceeds from their Borscht going to Ukraine. At Russian Samovar, they were expecting a sold-out crowd on Sunday at 4 p.m. with a $40 cover charge.
“We want to help family, friends and relatives,” Valery Zhmud, a Ukrainian violinist, said. “It’s very important at this moment.”