For a dozen years or so, I’ve been pointing out that Southern California appears to be filling up with immigrants from the former Warsaw Pact.
But it’s hard to find out much about them. The media aren’t too interested in them. They’re immigrants (yeah), but they’re white (not yeah), so that confuses and discourages the press: What line should we take on them? Are white immigrants bad or good?
And they aren’t particularly loquacious. My wife’s nephew played on a soccer team at the local park that was otherwise all Russian-speaking and the limit of his conversations with his furtive-looking teammates was roughly, “Hey, you, play over there.”
One interesting question I’ve seldom seen discussed is: how Jewish are these immigrants? They don’t look too Jewish, but they seem attracted to places like North Hollywood that aren’t far from large, wealthy Jewish communities. The U.S. long had special religious rules for Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, but how do U.S. government officials decide who exactly is a Jew?
So, I’ve been interested in the coverage of the two Russian sisters who got tied up with the Farook Family and Friends in San Bernardino as a rare newspaper attempt to find out something about some Warsaw Pact immigrants. From the L.A. Times:
Matt Hamilton, Richard Winton and Kate Mather
Among the immigrant salespeople at Montebello Town Center, the two sisters from western Russia hardly stood out.
Mariya Chernykh hawked cellphone cases and screen protectors to passersby at a kiosk owned by her sister Tatiana. At night, they retreated to a modest apartment in Rosemead.
But whatever low profile the sisters had suddenly vanished with the San Bernardino terror attack.
Tatiana is married to the brother of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S soil since 9/11. And Mariya married Enrique Marquez Jr.,
The 2015 iSteve Male of the Year winner, and a worthy successor to the 2014 co-winners: Haven Monahan and Donald Sterling.
who was charged with buying the rifles used in the massacre and for allegedly planning an earlier terrorist plot with Farook. Federal prosecutors allege Marquez’s union was a fraud and that he was paid $200 a month to marry Mariya.
Neither sister has been charged with a crime, and officials have made no indication that they knew about Farook and his wife’s plan to open fire at a holiday party in San Bernardino on Dec. 2, killing 14 people.
Documents and interviews trace the sisters’ journey to America, but it remains a mystery how they fell into Farook’s orbit and became so woven into the family.
The daughters of Anatolij and Valentina Chernykh came separately to the U.S. from Vysokiy, a village nearly 400 miles south of Moscow. Tatiana secured a short-term educational exchange visa and arrived in 2003, living at some point in Virginia.
Within two years, she married a man in Richmond.
But the couple separated after four years and she filed for dissolution in 2010. By then, she had moved to Southern California and mailed her husband the divorce papers, which were filed in a Pasadena courthouse. He never replied, according to court records.
Tatiana showed an enterprising streak and launched several businesses, including the kiosk at the Montebello mall, according to public records.
At the mall, Mariya found a romantic interest in Vram Kupelian, who worked in a nearby shop, he said in an interview. The relationship lasted more than a year, although her busy schedule allowed little time for leisure, he said.
“She pretty much spent seven days working at the mall,” Kupelian said.
Since the sisters’ parents lived in Israel, the prospect of living and working together gave the sisters a support system that life in Russia didn’t offer, he said.
So the Chernykhs were at least Jewish enough to move to Israel, although plenty of rabbis in Israel are not happy about all the vaguely Jewish Russians that Ariel Sharon invited in to help outnumber the Arabs. (Of course, Sharon himself wasn’t the most 100% Jewish looking guy in Israel.)
Tatiana, meanwhile, had begun dating Farook’s older brother, Syed Raheel Farook, a U.S. Navy veteran from a first-generation Pakistani family. Friends knew him as Raheel. …
On her Russian social media account, Tatiana posted photos of trips the couple took together: to Lake Tahoe, Disneyland and Cancun.
She identified herself online as a businesswoman with a love of comedy films and reality TV shows, such as “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” In the space for “about me,” she wrote, “I [live] in the usa, just got engaged, living a happy life.”
When Tatiana and Raheel married in 2011, the two witnesses on their marriage license were his brother, Syed Rizwan Farook, and Marquez. …
While employed part time at a Riverside bank, Tatiana underwent fertility treatment, and she alleged that she lost her job because she went on medical leave, according to a lawsuit she filed in 2014. The case later was settled. …
At least two times since July, police were called to the home on reports of a dispute between Raheel and an unidentified woman, Corona police said. …
Tatiana, a state-licensed cosmetologist, once invited Adams over to show off the beauty salon she had in her garage, complete with purple walls and a professional hair dryer.
There, Adams recalled meeting Mariya, whom she described as quiet and more reserved. Tatiana chalked up her younger sister’s reticence to her limited English, Adams recalled.
Mariya crossed paths with Oscar Romero, who works at a flower wholesale business in downtown Los Angeles, according to records. The relationship blossomed, with Mariya using an online name to match her boyfriend’s: Maria Romero, according to an affidavit and an archived copy of the now-deleted profile.
In photos posted online — part of a social media presence that FBI investigators described in the affidavit — she and Romero posed in front of a Christmas tree and in nightclubs. The couple soon had a daughter together.
In a telephone interview with The Times earlier this month, Oscar Romero said he was the father of Mariya’s child but that their relationship had ended and he knew few details of her life.
“Like I said, she’s my baby’s mama. Whatever she does with her life,” he said, is her business.
He didn’t provide a date for their split, except that it happened before she married her husband, Marquez.
When Marquez and Mariya married in a mosque in 2014, the witnesses were her sister and Syed Raheel Farook, according to the marriage license. All four listed their address at Tatiana and Raheel’s Corona home.
But in the days after the shooting, according to a federal affidavit, Marquez said otherwise: He was approached by Raheel to marry Mariya, and in exchange, he would receive $200 a month, according to the affidavit.
The marriage was a ruse, he said, because Mariya had immigration issues and needed a green card, according to court records and federal sources.
While Marquez lived at his parents’ home — they knew nothing of the marriage — his wife continued to live with and date her ex-boyfriend, he told investigators, according to the affidavit.
“Date” has become a four-letter word.
Marquez and Mariya’s green card interview was scheduled for Dec. 3, the day after Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife attacked the Inland Regional Center. …
In online messages obtained by investigators, Marquez admitted to Mariya that he was “just a little anxious” and had prepared practice questions, according to the affidavit.
Mariya replied, “Omg!! Enrique I’m the one freaking out here!!! … I’ll see u Monday and we’ll talk.”
Neither showed up to the interview.