Essential Pittsburgh
5:16 pm
Wed March 12, 2014

Pitt Ukrainian Scholar Explains Varied Responses to Russian Conflict

Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh Adriana Helbig is one of many Pittsburgh residents with Ukrainian heritage.
Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh Adriana Helbig is one of many Pittsburgh residents with Ukrainian heritage.
Credit adrianahelbig.com

Ethnomusicologist and anthropologist Adriana Helbig is one of many Pittsburgh residents with Ukrainian heritage. She travels to Kiev each year for family, and for work as an assistant professor of music and a faculty member in Cultural Studies, Women's Studies, Global Studies, and the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Helbig shared insight on Ukraine's standoff with Russia including why nations in the European Union are struggling to help Ukraine with this conflict.

“One of the major concerns is the EU’s reliance on Russia for oil and gas. And to take into account that Germany is one of the biggest purchasers of Russian gas. And so taking into account this diplomacy element but also acknowledging that oil and gas and the reliance on natural resources are a big part of the response of the European Union.”

Helbig observed that Ukrainian-Americans in Pittsburgh and in other cities are responding to the conflict in different ways.

“I think concern is an understatement. I would just like to say that the Ukrainian community throughout North America is very organized," Helbig explained "Now we see again, this mass mobilization in all cities majorly, in Chicago, Toronto, New York, Washington D.C. there are protests. There are events that are supporting the people who need medical aid that have suffered from burns from participating in the Euromaidan protest and the push to contact congressman and senators to bring Ukraine to the awareness of the politicians.”

Based on her work and communications with African migrants in the eastern city of Kharkiv, Helbig says she's hearing very different views of the situation, even in the eastern part of the country.

"We keep talking about this as a Ukrainian-Russian language debate or crisis, and really consider that there are many other people that live in Ukraine. You have the Jewish population, you have the Crimean  Tatars, that actually have not really had their voice heard in US media, and also the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the African migrants that live in major cities throughout eastern Ukraine. "