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Russian-Americans Wary Of Trump's Relationship With Putin

Mark Lennihan
A woman is surrounded by seagulls as she feeds them bread crumbs on the Brighton Beach boardwalk on Friday in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

In the Russian-American neighborhood of Brighton Beach, N.Y., many people support the GOP, but they're concerned about Vladimir Putin having too much influence in the Trump administration.

WSHU’s Charles Lane spent some time in Brighton Beach and found a different take on U.S.-Russia relations from the Russian-American enclave.

Below is a transcript of his interviews with residents:

CHRISTINA BONILLA: This is not America. This is Odessa.

LANE: Christina Bonilla married an American, but she's from the Republic of Georgia. And she loves Trump even though Trump is seeking closer ties with Russia, which invaded her country back in 2008.

BONILLA: Because this is two huge countries and two strong countries, but for me, very important. I don't care about Russia because Russia have fight with my country. I care about USA and Georgia.

LANE: Bonilla embodies a dichotomy that pervades Brighton Beach. They hate Russia, but they love Trump, who is bringing the two countries closer than ever before. Alexander Adelman is a Russian Jew, a shoemaker who left Moscow in 1978. He listens to Russian radio all day, which tells him Trump is good.

Do you like Putin? Vladimir Putin?

ALEXANDER ADELMAN: Putin? We don't like him. I don't like, and all Russian don't like him.

LANE: Adelman goes on to say that Trump can stand up to someone like Putin in order to keep the peace.

ADELMAN: Trump don't give Putin, step on his feet.

LANE: That's when Ada Sonis comes in to get her high heels repaired. She explains that Russians like tough macho men.

ADA SONIS: Because of the history of the country.

LANE: Sonis and Adelman, like so many other Russian-Americans here, fled a corrupt and brutal Soviet Union. They still fear it. And they say that Trump, with his arm around Putin, can keep Russia from taking more global power. But there's a flip side. So says Pat Singer, the founder of the Brighton Beach Neighborhood Association, a group that helps Russian migrants get access to government programs.

PAT SINGER: Food stamps, Section 8, and they're going for man who's anti-government involvement. I don't know if they're looking at the big picture here. They're stabbing themselves in the foot.

LANE: Singer is second-generation Ukrainian, and she marks a divide within the community. She says as children of migrants assimilate, they like Trump less.

SIMONA BLACK: As a Russian-American, I don't quite get it myself. It just doesn't make sense to me.

LANE: Simona Black is a 39-year-old makeup artist who grew up in the States.

BLACK: They just think that he's just going to make everything better, make everything right.

LANE: In Trump, Black sees the same things that her parents didn't like about the Soviets – a tough guy with lots of personal wealth and lots of promises that may or may not come true.