As Sochi games continue, a look at Wisconsin's Russian community - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

As Sochi games continue, a look at Wisconsin's Russian community


The Winter Olympic Games are giving us a look into more than just sports. We also get to see another culture.

Sochi has cast a spotlight on the world's largest country, Russia.

Part of that country has strong roots and a strong community here in central Wisconsin.

At Lioudmila Deffner's house in Rib Mountain, Russian speakers gather often.

"We celebrate some Russian holidays, American holidays, birthdays," said Deffner, who's originally from Siberia.

"We are very blessed and we are trying to keep our community all together," added Diana Rabkina, originally from Moscow.

Rabkina estimates 20 or 30 Russian families live here in central Wisconsin.

"When we moved here I didn't know if there were any Russian people, but we were pleasantly surprised to see more people," she said.

Each person has come from different cities, has lived in the U.S. for different amounts of time, and has different jobs. But their common bond to Russia, the language, and the food brings them together.

At a recent gathering, Lioudmila cooked up a delicious variety of traditional Russian foods including borsch.

"We like borsch, "said Olia Cotey, who lives in Weston after moving to the United States seven years ago. "It's a beet soup with meat and some other vegetables. It's really, really good."

"I do a lot of Russian cuisine," added Deffner.

Besides the food. Russian culture is alive in other ways. Many Russian speakers in the area worship together at a Russian Orthodox church in Marathon.

And this year's brutal winter weather is familiar to many of them.

"That's Siberian winter," said Deffner of our recent subzero temperatures.

And of course, the Olympics offers a daily reminder of the Russian homeland.

"We Russians here are very proud of our nation," said Cotey.

This group of Russians isn't oblivious to the political tensions between their home country and the United States. But Deffner hopes the Olympics will help diffuse that.

"I think between our countries should be peace all the time," she said.

So as the Olympics continue, Deffner and her friends will be watching. But even after the games are over, their home country will sit top of mind, and their traditions will continue to be nurtured by their extended family here in central Wisconsin.

Deffner said she's looking forward to holding outdoor gatherings this summer with many of the Russian speaking families in the area.

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