At the bar patrons speak mostly Russian, but I went there with Olga, who is bi-lingual at least. She was my assurance and my insurance.
Olga is well-loved, and not just by Russians who appreciate her defense of the Motherland. English-speakers who tried to learn Russian in the 1990's may remember Olga fondly. She was the young girl with the sweet, musical voice who seemed to be a part of every Russian studies tape or CD. She was a joy. She turned every Russian phrase into a warmly hilarious question. Just to hear Olga ask "Kakoy?" could make the hardest of hearts believe in the angels and the saints.
I even put Olga on my answering machine. Every time I'd get a call, I'd let her pronounce in her inimitable Russian, "This summer I am going to England to teach the British about Our Shakespeare." A person didn't have to know a word of Russian to appreciate her voice. Within a few days of copying Olga's phrase to my machine I was getting hundreds of calls from total strangers. Word had spread quickly. Olga is that much fun to listen to.
Except to the British. They were not amused by Olga's claim that Shakespeare was Russian. Though Olga had followed through on her dream of bringing Enlightenment to the British Isles, many English accused Olga and her countrymen of plagiarism. The baffled and disillusioned teenager had prudently decided to emigrate yet again.
"Actually, I am quite happy I moved to America," Olga confides. "Here in America people ask, 'Who is Shakespeare and what kind of music do they play?' instead of getting crazy." Olga misses people who like to discuss Shakespeare, though, and she is only too happy to explain such traditional Russian literature to us. She's brilliant. When Olga revisits, for instance, the famous "Bweet ee-lee nyet bweet" speech ("To be or not to be") Prince Hamlet himself must rise from the grave with tears of joy.