Accompanying last winter’s surgery included not only a dietary change, but more importantly, a lifestyle change. More exercise and less stress were emphasized along with a lifestyle change. That meant no more happy hours at Nina’s Grill (formerly the Russian Tavern).
For the next six months, I followed a strict regimen of no salt, no fat, no booze and no fun. I sure did feel better, though. Six months later, I felt good enough to stop by and visit with Nina and her husband, George. Twelve years ago they had emigrated from St. Petersburg, Russia, and began a new life in America. They opened the Russian Tavern, which soon became a social hangout for other Russian émigrés. Nina’s warm, friendly personality also attracted immigrants from Mexico, Somalia, and the Sudan who shared the tavern with a youthful college crowd. The after work happy hour drew a variety of both blue and white collar workers. More than once I found myself conversing with lawyers, students and carpenters.
After a six-month absence from Nina’s, I wondered if anyone would still remember me and my $2 glass of Cabernet. As I walked into the nearly empty tavern, a young lady emerged from the kitchen.
“Hi, I’m Anarae. George will be right out,” she said.
Once in a while you meet a person who exudes a certain specialness that surrounds them. Anarae was one of those people. As a freshman attending the University of Minnesota, this young lady had already accomplished so much and had more friends than most people gain in an entire lifetime. As a high school freshman, she captained the Metcalf Junior High chess team, leading them to the championship game at the National Girls Under Sixteen Chess Championship Game in Dallas, Texas, where the team took second place. Individually, Anarae ranked in the top 10 nationally.
In the past year, while pursuing her studies at the U of M, she also found time to tutor more thn 80 students. Anarae’s social life encompassed everyone from college professors to the homeless. One such friendship that turned into a relationship was with a young man who had been charged with or convicted of seven violent crimes. In the past 14 years, in spite of his record of violent activity, he spent less than four of them in jail or prison.
On September 19 of this year, the young man was released on $25,000 bail following charges of first degree burglary. A few weeks later, he met up with Anarae at the parking lot of Nina’s Grill. She was always intent on helping people out, thinking that every individual had a good side to them, so while they had been dating, Anarae lent him $5,000. Intent on ending the relationship for good, the two walked into Nina’s Grill at 1:30 a.m. Ten minutes later, they went out to the parking lot where a horrendous series of events took place. One man was dead, the victim of eight gunshots from Anarae’s ex-boyfriend. The parking lot’s video camera surveillance tape showed the last time Anarae was ever seen alive.
A week later, Anarae’s body was found in a ditch 30 minutes from the crime scene. A few days later, a huge memorial service was attended by more than 1,000 people.
Angry demands threaten the closure of Nina’s Grill. I personally know Nina and George are decent and friendly people. I also had the privilege to meet the wonderful young lady named Anarae who had so much going for her. In a few short violent minutes, the world had changed for thousands and forever for Anarae.