By Karol Markowicz
This column was originally published in the New York Post.
Like everyone else, Russian immigrants throughout the five boroughs were horrified by last week’s news about how Sergey Mamonov allegedly killed and dismembered his roommate in Brooklyn. Then we said to each other, “Not us again.”
It’s not just local stories. Last month, President Obama was caught on an open mic placating Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — who responded: “I will transmit this information to Vladimir [Putin].”
Medvedev sounded vaguely sinister, robotic. It was reminiscent of Drago standing over Apollo Creed’s body in “Rocky IV” and saying, cold as ice, “If he dies, he dies.”
Jon Stewart had a field day replaying the conversation, wondering if maybe all the misunderstandings between our two countries come down to the Russian accent’s making everything sound evil.
To Russians living in America, it all seems a little unfair. Who else has their accent mocked as wicked? If it had been China’s president saying the same thing, it’s unlikely Americans would have spent days imitating him; you’re too likely to be called racist.
It doesn’t help, of course, that Russians are constantly in the news — and rarely in a good way. The last year has been especially bad: A month after the Maksim Gelman murder spree, which killed five and injured several others, the alleged killer of a mother and daughter fled to Russia.
And now Sergey Mamonov.
Even the “good” stories seem to be embarrassing. Russians buying up $100 million apartments may seem glamorous, but last week’s New York Times piece on it bordered on accusatory as to how that money was made — with focus on such inane details as each billionaire’s rotating list of girlfriends and the Russian obsession with working out.
There wasn’t even the requisite “most Russians are hardworking, law-abiding, faithful to their wives and not gazillionaires” add-on other ethnicities would expect.
Let’s not even talk about the reality shows. Italian-American organizations protested “Jersey Shore.” When the ridiculous “Russian Dolls” premiered, Russians in New York individually took to Facebook, heads in hands, to share their shame. No group spoke out.
Why doesn’t the Russian community have an established grievance group at the ready to fight for its right to, well, to not be offended?
It’s pretty simple: Most of us escaped the Soviet Union, so it takes a lot to rattle a Russian. So what if the media focus on the violence and the money? At least we’re free and don’t have to fear a knock on our door over something we said.
Raised on blue jeans and the Beatles, most Russians came to America to be . . . Americans. Keep some of the culture, sure, but ultimately assimilate and create an American life for their children.
In the Brooklyn state Senate election now being recounted, a margin of three votes separates the candidates. David Storobin, the current leader, is Russian-Jewish. His opponent accused him of being a neo-Nazi and, when that didn’t work, of being a friend to child molesters.
Most other groups would’ve seen some spokesperson take to a podium, aggrieved on behalf of the community. Not us. The self-proclaimed leader of the community, radio personality Gregory Davidzon, actually backed the non-Russian in the election.
But that’s OK. Storobin’s three-vote lead may not hold, but Russians will have done the most American thing they could do — they tried to vote their guy in.
Karol Markowicz blogs at alarmingnews.com