brighton beach and the J-1s


Walk down Brighton Beach Avenue and you’ll see that between the glossy stores selling Russian speciality foods there are now cheap but buzzing Turkish hairdressers, Indian groceries, Chinese nail parlours. These are the newest immigrants, the ones just off the boat. Russians have stopped coming in big numbers – there’s just a steady stream known as the ‘J-1s’. J-1s are non-immigrant visas issued to students. Many try to extend their visas into more permanent ones, and the term ‘J-1’ has become a synonym for pretty Russian girls allegedly desperate to stay in America. ‘You must come to such-and-such a party,’ Little Russia Romeos tell me, ‘it’ll be full of J-1s.’ The J-1s live in crowded apartments, sleep on mattresses and are regularly ripped off by landlords. A few lucky ones get to help Bella sell flowers: she gives them free board at her house and they babysit the kids in return. One of them, Oksana, a psychology student in Lvov, was at Cosmos carrying bouquets in a basket like Eliza Doolittle. She was born in 1992, and is bemused by Little Russia. ‘It’s so Soviet. Or what I imagine the Soviet Union was like. Lvov is so much more European and modern.’

more from Peter Pomerantsev at the LRB here.