By Aleksandra Michalska
NEW YORK – On the day Russia invaded Ukraine, Vlada Von Shats put a picture of a Ukrainian flag on the front door of her ‘Russian Samovar’ restaurant in New York’s Manhattan, and a sign that read, “Stand by Ukraine. NO WAR.”
Von Shats, who is Russian, has been married to Jacob, a Ukrainian, for 38 years. They have three children and the family operates the restaurant Von Shat’s mother opened in 1986, about a decade after the family fled the Soviet Union.
Because of its name, the establishment has received its share of hate since the invasion, Von Shats said.
“We were called fascists and Nazis on the phone,” she said. “We’ve had hate emails. Our sign was kicked in.”
Russia attacked Ukraine on Feb. 24. The fighting, which Moscow calls a special military operation, has sent more than 2 million refugees fleeing to the EU, and has triggered unprecedented sanctions on Russia.
Reservations at the Samovar restaurant have dropped about 60%, Von Shats said, which has made it more difficult to recover coming out of the COVID pandemic.
“We were struggling to begin with. And now with this Russophobia on the rise, it was a scary moment here,” she said.
Von Shats says she has been heartened however by messages of support on social media, as people begin to understand their anti-war stance, but she is still worried about her family and friends in both Russia and Ukraine.
“We don’t want war. Nobody in their right mind wants war,” she said. “This whole situation is horrific. We are very much against the war, any war, but especially this war.”
(Reporting by Aleksandra Michalska; Editing by Karishma Singh and Rosalba O’Brien)