Odessa in Brooklyn

Dee Bowers

Table inside Odessa restaurant in Brighton Beach
Marcia Bricker, "Odessa Restaurant," circa 1980, color slide, V1992.43.40. Marcia Bricker photographs collection, V1992.043; Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Brooklyn History.

This image of a restaurant in Brighton Beach is from our small collection of photographs by Marcia Bricker. Bricker, a documentary photographer, had worked for the federal jobs program CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) documenting the Soviet refugees that began settling in the Brighton Beach area in the 1970s when the Soviet Union relaxed immigration policies. In 1992, Bricker donated 47 photographs of her personal work to the Brooklyn Historical Society, which is now, of course, the Center for Brooklyn History. This color slide is part of that group and was taken around 1980.

The immigrants that began to rejuvenate the Brighton Beach neighborhood in the 1970s were majority Jewish and came from different Soviet areas, but so many came from Ukraine that the neighborhood earned the moniker “Little Odessa” after the Ukrainian port city. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the neighborhood saw another significant influx of immigrants from former Soviet countries, such as Georgia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, leading to such cross-cultural experiences as the Uzbek-Korean restaurant Cafe at Your Mother-in-Law.

The prevailing ethos in the neighborhood is still, as local resident and business owner Elena Rakhman recently described in an interview with The Guardian, “all just Soviet refugees trying to find our way and helping each other.” Of course, that solidarity has been tested recently as the neighborhood grapples with the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Though there are undoubtedly some outliers, overall the residents of Brighton Beach–aka Little Odessa–stand together as Brooklynites.

Interested in seeing more photos from CBH’s collections? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images, or the digital collections portal at Brooklyn Public Library. We look forward to inviting you to CBH in the future to research our entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections. In the meantime, please visit our resources page to search our collections. Questions? Our reference staff is available to help with your research! You can reach us at cbhreference@bklynlibrary.org.


This blog post reflects the opinions of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Brooklyn Public Library.


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