Costa Rican resident Elena Polster, a native Russian, began reaching out to her compatriots by publishing a newspaper last year.
Called “Around the Teapot,” the newspaper recently celebrated its ninth monthly issue. It uses a toucan, representing Costa Rica, pouring a cup of tea from a samovar, a Russian container used to heat and boil water, on its masthead.
Polster, an English teacher who’s been living in Costa Rica since 1985, says it’s no easy task serving a Russian community she estimates at 2,000 to 5,000, most here illegally.
“Russians are totally disunited,” Polster says. “It’s kind of a mystery why Russian people don’t like each other and why they don’t like to get together and network. It’s probably because under Communism, we were obliged to meet together very often, and now we realize we don’t have to.”
Many of those Russians came during the exodus in the first 10 years after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989.
“The Soviet Union disappeared, and everything finished,” she says. “The craziness started, and everybody just started to leave Russia just to save themselves. Many of them came with just a plane ticket, without Spanish.”
With a skeleton staff of four, Polster runs the business out of her home in San Antonio de Belén in Heredia, north of San José, with her partner, Jorge Salazar, a Tico and former TV news producer.
The couple acknowledge the paper is struggling. They say the plan is to put it exclusively online at http://www.ruscosta.com to cut costs.
“The idea was to make money, but it’s proven hard to do so far,” Polster says of her pet work in progress.
However, the publication has shown signs of growth. It has evolved in nine months from Russian-only to Spanish-Russian and from 200 copies to 5,000.
Profiles, interviews, crossword puzzles, horoscopes and jokes – including racial Eskimo jokes, apparently a Russian favorite – make up the majority of the paper.
“The idea is to make our newspaper not so formal, to make it more warm and human-interest oriented,” Polster says.
Russian Embassy adviser Valery Artaso says the newspaper is a valuable and popular resource for Russians living in Costa Rica. He says the embassy has helped with printing costs on occasion.
“(The paper) informs all of us,” he says. “We’ve also talked about the idea of trying to get (the dailies) La Nación or Prensa Libre to take it as an insert.”
Although the newspaper costs ¢500 (about $1), embassy officials distribute it for free.
Polster can be reached at 8834-8202 or at email@example.com.