The Russian invasion of Ukraine is creating headaches for small businesses owned by Russian-Americans, even if the owners are from Ukraine or Georgia.
There is one Ukrainian restaurant in San Francisco, the Financial District piroshki and dumpling spot Pushkin. And even though the business is owned by Ukrainian-Americans, and relentlessly running fundraisers to help support Ukrainians affected by the Russian invasion, KTVU reported last month that they were receiving threats on social media from cranks who complained that they were Russian, and somehow had some responsibility in all this.
"Definitely not what we appreciate, to have some hateful speech against this situation,” Pushkin co-owner Sergey Shukaylo told KTVU at the time.
Not surprisingly, the bullying has spread to San Francisco’s Little Russia neighborhood, the Outer Sunset enclave home to many Russian immigrants. KGO reports that business owners in Little Russia are being harassed with angry calls and complaints blaming them for some alleged affiliation with the invasion.
"Some Americans call. Some angry people and they say something like 'are you proud to be Russian now?' Or 'get all the Russian products off the shelves'," Europa Plus supermarket owner Alex Miretsky told KGO. "I'm a Jew who emigrated from Russia in 1987. I left Russia but I was raised in Ukraine for the first five years of my life."
Miretsky says he’s been harassed for carrying Russian products, though many of these aren’t Russian products, and come from other Eastern European countries like Armenia and Moldova. "It was all in the same region. The same people. The families are interconnected and people live in both places like I did,” he told the station.
A similar situation is playing out at nearby Moscow & Tbilisi Bakery, whom KGO reports is “being asked to remove the word ‘Russian’ from their advertising,” though the station does not disclose who’s doing the asking there. Moscow & Tbilisi’s owner is a native of the Caucasus nation of Georgia.
There’s definitely some Russian resentment being stoked by rhetoric like Rep. Eric Swalwell saying we should kick Russian students out of the U.S. And of course many big U.S. businesses are pulling out of Russia. But for some Russian-American owned businesses in San Francisco, a Ukrainian flag in the window is not enough to stem harassment.
Image: Andrew D. via Yelp