After crash, Austinites with ties to Russia and Ukraine react

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Russian and other cultures of the region live at the Russian House NaZdorovye in downtown Austin.

It lives in decorations on the walls, it lives in the recipes, and in the language.

“We actually think of ourselves as the little island of Russia or the USSR countries,” said Varda Gribkova, who runs the business with her husband.

Varda says she was born in Crimea and grew up in Moscow. She says the current conflict is weaved with history, culture and language mesh in the region, and it can complicate understanding of the issues.

The newspapers in the restaurant from back home don’t yet bear the headlines about the crash.

“Those were completely innocent people that had nothing to do with the conflict,” said Varda.

Varda says the staff — from different countries — stays away from talking politics, while still thinking about family overseas.

“It was kind of stressful for us, especially for me because all my family (is) [in Ukraine]. I am the only one who is here. But what you can do,” asked Viktoriia Papchenko a manager at Russian House.

“We all have differing opinions. We’re thousands and thousands of miles away from our homes and we’re family here now,” Varda said.

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