Here, in a self-created cocoon of familiar cultural touchstones, I detected a kind of dual nationalism among the residents—a manifest love for countries that once were home and an equal adoration for the populist president many of them voted for. “Trump is a fighter, a negotiator, a successful businessman. Four times he go through the bankruptcy. He understand how the world works from a business perspective,” says Alexander Shapiro, who came to the states in the early-1990s from what’s now Ukraine. “During the campaign, he ran against governors and senators. He beat everybody like babies.”What's so wrong with them? Turns out, they're not Democrats, and they don't want a government handout.
Hearing how jazzed residents sounded about Trump’s first 60 days in office, I half expected to find shelves laden with Russian nesting dolls featuring Barron, Ivanka, Don Jr. and the whole gang. There was nothing so brazen inside the Knizhnik gift store, a mom-and-pop-looking place where I was repeatedly reminded that the inventory was “all Russian —all.” There was, however, a Russian biography of Trump prominently displayed. It was the same book that became a popular giveaway at Trump-friendly election watch parties in Moscow, the one whose title has been dubbed in English as “The Black Swan.”
It’s an apt metaphor for how Bustleton and Somerton fit into Philadelphia writ large. Meaning, hardly at all.
In fact, Lipkovskaya suggests that the population hailing from ex-Soviet states might be predisposed to an up-by-the-bootstraps message like that of the Trump campaign, and a drain-the-swamp message, too. “In my family, we paid for everything with our hard work and great attitude toward this country,” she says. “Eastern Europeans are not so much depend on public benefits. We’re not waiting for dollars to fall from the trees.”Sounds a lot like that "mountain pride" that the last administration made it a priority to undermine. Maybe we could use some more immigrants from Russia, if they're of this mold.
After all, many of these immigrants ended up here, during the 1990s, seeking freedom from ethnic or religious persecution in their respective states. “Most of the Russians here are almost libertarians,” says Andre Krug, president and CEO of KleinLife, a senior-citizen program that caters to many Russian-speaking adults. “They came from a country where the country dictated how they were going to live their lives, so when they came to this country, they feel like the less government does, the better they’re going to be ultimately.” Their ideology—to draw a generality—is more like an attitude of rugged individualism, Krug says.