Letting go of bias and opening our doors

Russia heritage infused in

Crostwater Distillery

506 Industrial Dr, Lewisberry (Fairview Township)

The situation

Starting in the late 1800s, millions of migrations left Russia. Their leader, Czar Alexander III, openly passed anti-Semitic legislation, causing a wave of mass emigration. By the early 20th century, more Russians sought refuge following the social unrest, economic instability, and the threat of violence from the Bolshevik Revolution.

America’s open doors beaconed. Our porous borders meant millions of Russians found a home here.

However, these welcoming sentiments changed during the Red Scare of the 1920s, growing even more severe during the Cold War. Stopping the spread of communism became America’s new mantra, and where was the center of communism? Russia.

Suddenly, anti-Russian rhetoric contaminated movies, television shows, advertisements, and community chatter. Children, absorbing the beliefs of their parents, even carried these convictions to the schoolyard. They’d point accusatory fingers at classmates who came from the Russian families fleeing their home country.

One person who endured such bullying is Victoria Close, owner of  Crostwater Distillery in Fairview Township located at 506 Industrial Dr, Lewisberry.

The witness

Close’s family came to America after World War II when her grandparents fled political and religious persecution in Russia. She remembers her New Jersey elementary peers chanting “commie” at her on the playground, but at the time she didn’t know why.

“That is why our families left. Because of communism,” Close says, reflecting as an adult. “What was happening to the people of Russia… no freedom of speech, [people] couldn’t practice their religion. We got out.”

However, that didn’t matter to the impressionable youngsters who teased young Close. Bombarded with anti-communist rhetoric, they equated “bad” with “Russian.”

Are people in Russia still oppressed today? “It’s nothing different,” she says. “Russians are still violating free speech and religious rights.” 

She says, “I’m pro-peoples’ rights and being able to live your best life and do what you can to build a strong foundation for your family.” She adds at the end: “And work hard. But I’m more focused on what’s going on here, and how we make our life better here.”

Russian culture radiates from Crostwater Distillery, if you know where to look.

Recent events in Ukraine and Russia have not negatively impacted her business. Indeed, locals are supporting her business, judging by the lack of empty seats in the distillery. York County residents are separating vicious acts of violence made by the Russian government from our Russian neighbors – thankfully.

In a recent Wandering in York County blog article, Jamie Kinsley explores more: “Crostwater’s proud Russian heritage: From bullied to Fairview Township business owner.”

Crostwater infuses their award-winning spirits with fruit, veggies, beans, and spices creating concoctions such as cucumber gin, espresso vodka, and jalapeño vodka.

The questions

York County is doing it right – we are able to draw distinctions between corrupt foreign governments and the innocents who call this home. However, are we as unbiased toward all peoples? Are we as forgiving towards people from non-white countries? How can we better disassociate hurtful stereotypes from the past and the people living on our streets?

Related links and sources: YDR video showing the distillery in action; Crostwater Photos by Shane Bahn Photography.


— By JAMIE KINSLEY and JIM McCLURE

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