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Slice of Life: ‘I travelled the world but South Africa was special’

I am from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on Sakhalin Island. It’s eight hours from Moscow and one hour from Tokyo. We have a whole community of Russian Koreans, we call them Saram. They were brought there in the war as slaves.

My son’s father is Korean. His grandmother taught me all the secrets of Korean food.

I worked in the petrochemical industry for 10 years. That’s what brought me to South Africa. I had to mobilise 1 000 engineers, including South Africans. 

The company sent me here. It was easier. That was in 2005.

Since then I cannot complain. I travelled the world, but for me South Africa was special. For me, when I thought about where I wanted to live, I thought of South Africa all the time.

I started working in the travel industry. I became an agent for the Russian market. In two years I built a business of R10-million a year. 

Then Covid happened. I was retrenched. I don’t cry about it. I really feel for people in the travel industry. It suffered the most, from what I see.

I plan to go back to travel. My clients will be waiting for me. It is not easy to work with Russians.

I had never run a coffee shop before. I did do a business plan to open a Russian restaurant in Malaysia, for somebody else. 

Covid made it very hard. I had just opened and they closed the schools again. 

I started selling Russian and Korean food. 

Then we had looting. I wasn’t looted, thank God, although it affected us. I had to spend five hours to stock-up — three hours outside and two hours at the till.

What I like about Glenwood, the vibe is good. People don’t turn their noses up. The people like to try Russian and Korean food.I walk the dog every morning. Yes, you need to be careful, but you can enjoy the environment, just remove your jewels. — Elana Terentenyera, owner of Wendy’s Deli in Glenwood, Durban, as told to Paddy Harper

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper
Storyteller.

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