If you haven’t already heard, Portland is full of the Russian language.
There are citizenship classes taught in Russian, a Russian social services program, and at least a dozen Slavic churches.
There are little Eastern European stores with names like “Good Neighbor Store” and “Russian Elegant Food”, Cyrillic-lettered business cards taped up to bulletin boards at the door and free copies of деловой журнал outside.
There’s a local radio channel—the only all-Russian pop station broadcasting in the US.
Last week, a local paper even published this special issue…
Imagine walking down the street and seeing that in the newspaper rack!! For a minute, I forgot where I was. 😉 At my husband’s job, his coworkers brought in the newspaper to make sure he’d seen it. My mom also brought it up (a few days after calling and asking if Ray Moore was actually speaking fluent Russian in that interview, haha.)
This is the second time in the past six months that a local newspaper has written about Oregon’s Russian-speaking communities. In summer, the Oregonian published Dobro pozhalovat’ to the vast Russian community hidden in Portland. Now, Willamette Week has followed up with their own Russia Issue. You can read all eight articles + introduction on their website. I’ll show you bits and pieces of the articles below.
Some of the articles discuss Old Believers, a ballet academy in the suburbs, and—you guessed it—Trump/Russia ties.
There’s yet another article on downtown’s Kachka, the expensive stolovaya experience that has attracted crowds for the past three years. Fortunately, the article talks more about Kachka’s new cookbook (“the first major Russian cookbook published in America in 27 years”) than the actual already-reviewed-a-million-times restaurant.
My favorite article was about русское радио KXRU-FM 105.5, a radio station I didn’t know existed. It’s actually pretty cool! The music isn’t what I’d normally pick, but it’s fun to hear local and national news in Russian. A newsflash today pointed out that it’s Saakashvili’s birthday, which you’re guaranteed never to hear in the English language news… if only because no one can actually pronounce “Saakashvili”. You can stream русское радио for yourself here.
The next article covered how a trip to one of those Eastern European stores I mentioned before can be “an emotional journey.” (Speaking of which, when my mother-in-law visited us last month, we went to such a store so she could buy a dozen bags of pryaniki. When we got in the store and she saw all the halva, pryaniki, canned peas, and cheap persimmons, her eyes lit up! Since there’s no similar store where she lives, other people in the community asked her to come back with an entire suitcase full of pryaniki, and she obliged.) My favorite quote from this article: “When I talk about mayonnaise, I always kind of describe mayonnaise as, it’s as iconic as the Soviet Union gets—and because mayonnaise’s nature is not that stable to begin, that’s why the Soviet Union broke apart, because it was held together by mayonnaise.”
The final article was a list of Russian-y events in the area, like cooking classes, parties, plays, and the annual summertime Portland Slavic Festival.
By the way, if none of this sounds like the millennial, craft brewery, gluten-free Portland you’d heard about, don’t worry- that stuff is around too. Like this:
If you read any articles from the Willamette Week’s “Russia Issue”, I’m curious to hear what you think of them! Leave me a comment.
PPS: After my husband and I finished reading the paper, someone else took an interest in it-