AUSTIN (KXAN) — Since its opening more than a decade ago, the Russian House of Austin has worked to share Russian culture with residents, owner Varda Monamour said. But as the business continues its operations, it’ll do so under a different name.
On Sunday, Russian House officially changed its name to House, tearing down the letters of its original moniker from the building. The decision comes amid Russia’s attack on and invasion of Ukraine.
“To me, the name doesn’t reflect what we really are,” she said. “And if it saddens or brings pain to others, we just feel it needs to be ‘The House’ — the house for everyone. The house where people can come in and enjoy a good meal and concentrate on good things and something that brings us together, not puts us apart.”
For years, the business has centered on eastern European and Slavic dishes, serving as what Monamour hoped could be a vessel carrying these cultures and experiences to new audiences. She said she takes pride in the work her restaurant has done, but said this action, and what she hopes it can represent, is for the people of Ukraine.
“For them right now, the name is painful,” she said, adding: “I’m doing this for people of Russia, because there are so many people who don’t want this war. I’m doing this for people of Austin, because they need to know our position and understand what we really are.”
This decision was also inspired, Monamour said, by her hopes and her children’s futures, as well as her pride in her Russian heritage and its cultural contributions to language, literature, music, food and art.
As someone with a mixture of eastern European heritage, including Ukrainian, Monamour said she wants people to understand the respect and solidarity she shares with Ukraine. She said she’s reflected on this name change plenty over the past few days; even if it brings just one person peace or a sense of a relief, she said it’ll be worthwhile.
Decorating the walls of her restaurant are notorious figures, things and cultural contributions that have paved the history legacy of the Russian people. That pride in those contributions and her heritage isn’t lost in this process, she said.
When she first announced this name change yesterday, Monamour said she was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from not only devout customers, but members of the Ukrainian community.
She said often times — whether it’s psychological, cultural or due to another cause — she and other members of the Russian community feel compelled to remain silent on political issues. Now, she said she hopes this physical change can send a symbolic message.
“There’s so many things to be proud of and we are,” she said. “This is not because I’m banning my heritage. This is because — I’m doing this because I deeply love my culture and what I am, but today, it’s OK to speak up and say what is going on today is wrong and it needs to be stopped.”