In this South Florida melting pot ‘you don’t feel any sense of hostility’ between Ukrainians and Russians

“Great harmony. Here you don’t feel any sense of hostility," says a salon owner in Sunny Isles Beach.

SUNNY ISLES BEACH, Fla. – Between the nail appointments and hair trimmings, a salon is a gathering place of people, and at Shai Salon International in Sunny Isles Beach, clients with families in Ukraine and Russia are talking about the war.

“People are very upset, very hurt. It is sad,” Shai said. “It is sensitive for some people to talk about it.

“I think a situation like that kind of gathers people together more. I think you would expect to see separation, or maybe hate, but it is the opposite.

“Great harmony. Here you don’t feel any sense of hostility. ... It’s like brothers, that is why everyone is so surprised, almost like a civil war.”

Shai, who is from Israel, hears the echoes of world history.

Shai’s salon is located in a bustling shopping center that serves as a town plaza for international visitors and Eastern Europeans.

A man from Ukraine dines with his friend from Russia.

Nearby, outside Matryoshka Deli, letters on a trash can reads: Putin kaput.

“We are thinking it is terrible and Putin supposed to be in a jail, and we are from St. Petersburg so we are Russian,” said Natalia Vorobyov, a Russian-American.

Here for more than 20 years, Vorobyov says they have a lot of friends from Ukraine. She monitors the protests happening in Russia and the effort by some trying to flee Putin’s Russia.

“They try, but everything is closed. It is impossible for right now,” she said. “Looking for some ways, but no, no ways right now.”

Said Shai: “It’s time for change in leadership in Russia. There is a different way today in the world to settle, peace, talk negotiation. This is so unnecessary. So unnecessary.”

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."