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Some Eye Relationship With City In Ukraine

September 9, 1991

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The near breakup of the Soviet Union and the recent blows to Communism may help a long-sought relationship between Pittsburgh and Donetsk, a steel city in Ukraine.

A organization of Pittsburgh Ukrainians has worked since 1984 to forge the sister-city pact with Donetsk. But progress was slow because members of the city’s Ukrainian community were reluctant to forge a pact with the Ukrainian city while it was under the Communist system.

After last month’s coup, Ukrainian lawmakers declared the republic a sovereign state but maintained ties to the central government. The move is subject to a Dec. 1 referendum in the republic, which is the second most populous and second wealthiest in the Soviet Union.

The changes will affect attitudes in Pittsburgh about the sister city plan, said Michael Korchynsky, a Ukrainian-born metallurgist who moved to the United States after World War II.

″In the past, we would not want to be involved in any effort that could be part of official Soviet propaganda,″ he said. ″But now, the Communist Party cannot penetrate every facet of life.

″The Soviet Union no longer exists. I think many local Ukrainians will be interested in a sister city relationship.″

Korchynsky belongs to several Ukrainian organizations, including a group that raised about $100,000 to aid victims of the nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ukraine.

The group is tentatively called the Pittsburgh-Donetsk Sister City Committee. And there have been some tentative cultural exchanges between the two cities. A photographer and non-Ukrainian committee member, Donald Gibbon, joined other photographers to put together a collection of Pittsburgh photos that was sent to Donetsk in 1987.

Photographers from Donetsk sent an exhibit of their city’s scenes to Pittsburgh the next year.

Michael Komichak, who for 42 years has broadcast a Ukrainian radio show in Pittsburgh, said he doesn’t think there’s anything to be gained by the sister- city pact. Donetsk is ″Russified,″ he said.

″Donetsk is an industrial city and attracts people from all over the Soviet Union,″ Komichak said. ″As many as half of the Donetsk residents speak Russian, not Ukrainian.″

He added, however, ″There is growing interest in making contact with all ethnic groups in the Ukraine. It does no good just to talk to Ukrainians.″

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