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Russian Voice Radio: News and Views for New Arrivals

New America Media, NAM Profile, Julia Harte Posted: Aug 06, 2006

San Francisco -- The achievements of Alexander Zevelyov are manifold.

There are the Russian folk songs he has written, crooned, and accompanied on the piano since before he emigrated to the United States in 1991.

There is the Russian artists club he founded in San Francisco shortly after arriving. There is his work within the San Francisco Housing Authority, managing property for those mentally or physically unfit to do so.

And there is, since last year, the weekly Russian-language radio show he co-hosts: Russian Voice Radio.

At 5:00 pm every Saturday, 1450 AM broadcasts the three-hour program of guest interviews, call-in discussions, promotions for local Russian businesses, and personal commentary.
zevelyov
Zevelyov says the show has already inhabited a special niche in the lives of Bay Area Russian immigrants.

We have listeners who build up their Saturday schedule entirely around the program, marvels Zevelyov, touched by the thought.

One call during the programs second airing particularly highlighted the importance of Russian Voice Radio in some lives.

A young man phoned in to say Thank God you popped up. Now I know what to do on my Saturday evenings. And Im still thinking, poor man, recalls Zevelyov.

Rarely is the shows entertainment value so fervently endorsed. But it certainly fills a hole long noticed by Russian migrants to the U.S., Zevelyov included.

Though his entire family accompanied him to the country from Moscow, his mother never fully made the transition.

She wasnt happy here. There was no culture in her language. She couldnt just go outside of her apartment and shout to any neighbor; she had to choose the neighbor who spoke her language, remembers Zevelyov.

Other complications tarnish the immigrant experience for families. Cultural divides between generations are common and usually benign. But such divisions are exacerbated by immigration because each generation speaks a different language, so a child may pretend not to understand his parent, says Zevelyov.

Russian Voice Radio, he hopes, will ease the naturalization experience for future arrivals from Russia.

For example, the show features regular commentary by 79ers, so nicknamed because they rode a wave of immigration to the U.S. around the year 1979, as children.

Now in their 20s and 30s and primarily English speakers, many 79ers are unsure of their ethnic identity, confronted by the American fixation with personal heritage but unfamiliar with the culture of their own birthplace.

Russian Voice Radio can enlighten them.

One of Zevelyovs more notorious interviewees was Andrey Makarevich, a member of the iconic 1960s Russian pop band Mashina Vremeni.

I couldnt believe this guy was live, sitting next to me! recalls Zevelyov, who grew up on Mashina Vremeni the way baby boomers grew up on the Beatles. His co-host, Natasha Mesh, could not contain a scream of excitement.

Besides providing an emotional and cultural forum for Russian immigrants, Russian Voice Radio hosts legal, financial, and medical consultants. Yet the show does not exclusively address Russian- or immigrant-related topics.

Many of the conversations Zevelyov moderates between guests and callers-in revolve around local issues or international news. Speculating about construction on Geary Boulevard with an attorney occupied over an hour of one program, while the conflict in the Middle East has lately been much debated.

It is very important that our listeners understand that were local, says Zevelyov, who has received requests to cover news from the rest of California.

Zevelyov has many sentimental attachments to San Francisco, from the North Beach sex shop behind whose counter he worked his first year in the citythe majority of my clients were not crazy predators, assures Zevelyovto the professional property management agency he has just started up on his own.

This is my home, declares Zevelyov of the city. I drive down this street, so when they start thinking about money to fix potholes, its my personal problem. Whats over in Moscow is not my personal problem; I dont drive down those streets.

His sentiment expresses the extraordinary diligence Zevelyov brings to any endeavour, be it fixing a house, interviewing a Russian celebrity, or livingand drivingin San Francisco.

Zevelyovs gumption and exuberance has already imprinted San Francisco in a myriad of events and locales.

Now, thanks to Russian Voice Radio, it ripples over the city every Saturday.

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