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.