Little Odessa

The “Little Odessa” community in Brighton Beach, New York City is as much a state of mind as a location on a map. It is stuck between two worlds. It is a place of ceaseless nostalgic fantasy of countries left behind – a place where immigrants attempt to preserve what they once had in order to transition more smoothly into a life in America. It was in Brighton Beach during the 70s that Soviet immigrants forged a common bond through language and pop culture, thereby guarding an identity that prevents them from adapting to a new world. These cultural similarities echo in everything that the locals do and say – from what they eat and wear, to how they socialize and worship.

As a result of leaving their homeland during the Soviet years with feelings of longing and disconnectedness, many of the older inhabitants of Little Odessa still cling to Soviet ways that may no longer exist in their countries of origin. As a result, they resist integration into modern American culture while preserving a slice of history.

I have chosen to document this community because I, myself, emigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine. As a result of this shared experience I can relate to my subjects on a very intimate level. The people of Little Odessa have embraced me like family. In many ways their lives mirror my own. Like them, I have struggled with identity and the disconnectedness experienced from attempting to reconstruct a world from memories of my past.

Little Odessa Magazine and Book
Group Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. November 2012.
Group Exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. November 2012.
Women walking into the sea during an Epiphany ceremony at Brighton Beach, New York. January 19, 2013.
Portrait of Arcadiy. Brighton Beach. January 27, 2013.
An old photograph owned by Arcadiy, 80, serves as a reminder of his homeland Armenia. Brighton Beach. July 28, 2012.
Daily routine of Ukrainian women at the boardwalk. Brighton Beach, New York. June 16, 2012.
Ukrainian boys serving in the Ukrainian Church during the Baptism ceremony. Brighton Beach, New York. November 25, 2012.
Anastasia, a volunteer at a small Ukrainian church built to help homeless immigrants. Brighton Beach, New York. June 16, 2012.
The oldest Russian sauna in Brighton Beach, New York. January 26, 2013.
The oldest Russian sauna in Brighton Beach, New York. January 26, 2013.
Ukrainian women from Odessa, Ukraine playing poker on the beach. Brighton Beach, New York. June 16, 2012.
Artifacts from the Soviet days on the wall at the “Back to USSR” restaurant. Brighton Beach, New York. January 27, 2013.
People toasting at the birthday party in restaurant. Brighton Beach, New York. January 26, 2013.
Ukrainian wedding at the “National” Restaurant. Brighton Beach, New York. November 24, 2012.
A photo of Ivan and Mariana Smojanetza at their house. Brighton Beach, New York. April 16, 2012.
Street scene. Brighton Beach, New York. April 16, 2012.
Gynel Kasumov with her brother Orkhan at their apartment. Brighton Beach, New York. August 18, 2012.
Coaching a new generation of Russian chess players in Chess School. Brighton Beach, New York. January 27, 2013.
Playing cards, often for money, has become a usual routine of male immigrants. Brighton Beach, New York. July 30, 2012.
Busy street market at Brighton Beach, New York. October 6, 2012.
Fishermen selling his fresh catch on the street at Brighton Beach, New York. October 6, 2012.
Street scene. Brighton Beach, August 17, 2012.
Ukrainian emigrants watching UEFA Euro 2012 soccer game between Ukraine and France at the Volna restaurant. June 16, 2012.
Women at “Back to USSR” restaurant. Brighton Beach, New York. January 27, 2013.
Arcadiy’s stamp collection from the USSR. Brighton Beach, New York. January 27, 2013.
Street scene. Brighton Beach, New York. June 16, 2012.
Women shopping at the street market. Brighton Beach, New York. June 30, 2012.
“Back to USSR” restaurant. Brighton Beach, New York. January 27, 2013.
Jenya and Maria at the store. Brighton Beach, New York. July 28, 2012.
Epiphany ceremony in Brighton Beach, New York. January 19, 2013.
Ukrainian immigrants blessing traditional food baskets on the Easter Sunday at the Brighton Beach, New York. April 16, 2012.
Tatiana, 78, with her granddaughter Gynel at their home. Brighton Beach, August 18, 2012.
Traditional borsch dinner at Arcadiy’s apartment at Brighton Beach, New York. October 6, 2012.
Arcadiy in his apartment at Brighton Beach, New York. October 6, 2012.
Immigrant Anna Vasileva Skyping with her grandson Igor back in Ukraine. Brighton Beach, New York. April 16, 2012.
Street scene. Brighton Beach, New York. July 30, 2012.
Russian immigrant shows off his scar and reminisces about the old days. Brighton Beach, New York. October 7, 2012.
Young guys smoke a hookah at an Uzbek restaurant. Brighton Beach, New York. January 19, 2013.
Kate, Mutriba and Fatima during their pajama party. Brighton Beach, New York. November 24, 2012.
People enjoying ethnic Ukrainian music at the “National” restaurant. Brighton Beach, New York. November 24, 2012.
Jenya at her apartment. Brighton Beach, New York. November 23, 2012.
Russian news on TV. Brighton Beach, New York. October 6, 2012.
Street scene. Brighton Beach, New York. January 26, 2013.
Street scene. Brighton Beach, New York. August 18, 2013.
“National” restaurant. Brighton Beach, New York. January 20, 2013.
Mikhail and Jenya at their house. Brighton Beach, New York. July 28, 2012.
Lesya preparing pampushky for the church service. Brighton Beach, New York. July 28, 2012.
Lesya waiting for a train to go to the Baptism ceremony in Ukrainian church. Brighton Beach, New York. November 25, 2012.