Although the shop provides clients with authentic Russian caviar, bakery and milk products, the assortment includes some international dishes, as well. Next to the solyanka soup one can find a traditional Ukranian borsht and Jewish potato latkes.
“Our clients could be Russians, Ukranians, Jews. … It doesn’t matter. Every tenth client is American, and every seventh is Latin,” said Tatiana Kolpakova, the executive chef at Matryoshka. “Everybody likes delicious Russian pancakes with caviar or delightful steaming borscht with sour cream.”
“Relationships with Americans are mostly for business. We prefer to spend our free time with Russians just because it’s more comfortable for us,” said Pugachova, the shop owner. “It’s not a question of liking or the language barrier, but the mentality thing. With Russian-speaking people, we laugh at the same jokes, remember the same books and films. And it doesn’t even matter where he (the customer) is from — Israel or Ukraine, whatever. If he grew up in the Soviet Union, we consider him a part of our community.”
As Russian-speaking families adapt to life in the United States, they also work hard to preserve their language so it is not lost among the younger generation.
“We always speak Russian with our children when they are at home, but they also study English at school,” said Pugachova. “My son may ask me to give him a toy car in Russian and name the color in English. There is a mix of languages in his head now, but in the future he will be able to speak Russian and English fluently. It’s our goal as parents.”
Elena Potapova is an executive multimedia editor for the Moscow-based Russia Beyond The Headlines online news site. She was in Miami on an exchange program sponsored by the Washington-based International Center for Journalists.