Much of the talk at lunchtime yesterday, before news of the coup's failure, was comparing the sudden and mysterious health problems of the self-proclaimed Soviet leaders.
"It's surprising, everybody became ill all of a sudden," said Lena Lentsky, 45, who, like Alevsky, emigrated from the Ukraine a decade ago. ''First, Gorbachev, now these others," referring to the hard-liners who were apparently sickened by the coup's collapse.
"Now they'll get sick for good," Alevsky said cheerfully.
As customers soaked their fingers in a soapy cuticle softener, the women talked about the resistance movement in their homeland since President Mikhail Gorbachev was ousted. The opposition made them proud, they said, but it also made them worry for family and friends.
But even such concerns couldn't dampen their hospitality.
"I have family there, I'm very worried," said Yelen Gneusheva, 42, who arrived from Kiev less than two years ago. She eyed a visitor, then added in the same worried breath: "Maybe, dear, you come in for facial."
"I see, maybe, you need a manicure, too, eh?" said Alevksy. "I do it, no charge."
The manicurists were not the only ones worrying about events in the Soviet Union. The customers, many of whom grew up with Cold War fears, were worried too, Alevsky said. But it was nothing a little humor and good cheer couldn't fix.
"All our customers talk politics. 'What if, God forbid, war with Russia starts.', " Alevsky said. "We tell them, 'Don't worry. God forbid something happens, we'll save you.' "
Between customers, the women said they switch the radio station, from Easy Listening to the news. Lentsky was especially anxious: Her brother-in-law and his family were scheduled to arrive last night in Philadelphia from Kiev. Shortly after 2 p.m., she called her relatives in the Northeast for an update.
"Excuse me, excuse me, I have news," she said, rushing to the back of the salon where the other manicurists were on a cigarette break.
"Bush and Gorbachev has spoken with each other. Everything will be fine. People in the streets act like victory."
She clasped her hands to her heart. Gneusheva clapped.
The women predicted that the coup's failure will only make Gorbachev stronger, and will help bolster his democratic reforms.
"Gorbi is great," said Irene Moretsky, 27, who came from Tashkent a dozen years ago. "He was the first one who really opened the doors to the West. He brought freedoms."
And better still, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, the women's personal favorite, will emerge as a world hero for leading the resistance.
"This time, I feel it, there will be freedom, more freedom," said Lentsky, her eyes tearing. "People will be free. It will be more democracy. People want democracy."