Citing Religious Values, Russian-Speaking Families Lean Republican

Dec 14, 2017

Lyubov Chernioglo, left, and her daughter, Larisa Zubko, recall living under Communism in the former Soviet Union. Today, they live in the Missouri Ozarks.
Credit KSMU Radio

Lyubov Chernioglo sits with her daughter, Larisa Zubko, and reflects on her days in the former Soviet Union — the days of her earliest memories of politics and going to vote. As her mother speaks in Russian, Larisa translates.

"So, the candidate was already chosen, and they must, they had to, give their votes for that same person. They didn’t have a choice," Zubko says.

In the 2016 election, her family threw their support behind the Republican candidate:  now President Donald Trump.

"I saw that he’s a more reliable person. Before the election we prayed a lot. We even fasted for this election," Chernioglo said through translation.

Chernioglo’s daughter, Larisa, said there are Russian-language newsletters the community relies on for its political news. They inform the community on matters that are important to them.

As for her, she said it came down to her faith, and issues related to her ideals of family. The main issue for her was to support the Biblical definition of marriage, which she believes is meant to be between a man and a woman.

And she’s not convinced there was any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the US election, she says.

"I can speak for myself and maybe a few more people I’ve talked to. We don’t believe that that happened. I don’t know how it’s even possible, but nowadays anything is possible. So we’re not saying it didn’t happen. We just don’t believe that it did," she said.

These Evangelical Christians have been relying on their faith to guide their political views for decades, including long before they ever set foot on American soil.

Her mother, Lyubov, remembers worshipping in the wee hours of the morning  in the former Soviet Union, with curtains drawn, to avoid arrest under the former Communist government.

Larisa says she and others were persecuted for not toeing the Communist Party line.

"In the fourth grade, you were supposed to take an oath to your government and as Christians we couldn’t do that. Imagine a fourth grader going through something like this, which he--she is beaten and laughed at and bullied just because she is not, what they called them is 'pioneer.' You wore this little piece of material, fabric, that is red on your neck in showing that you took that oath to the government," Larisa said.

Anastasia Gantyuk, a young mother in south-central Missouri, plans to apply for US citizenship one day.

She says the 2016 presidential election was one area that most young and old members of the Russian-speaking community have in common:  they favored Donald Trump.

The older generation felt he was a strong supporter of traditional values that line up with their faith.  But the young knew him for different reasons.

"We used to watch a lot of [The] Apprentice. And I just liked how he is," Gantyuk said.