Helene Sinnreich offical UTK picture

Helene Sinnreich

Associate Professor of Religious Studies, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies?

My father was born in Romania so my whole life I have been interested in Eastern Europe. My paternal grandparents were very influential in my life and I spent many hours helping my grandmother make pierogi and listening to her stories of her life growing up in a region with constantly fluctuating borders. I wanted to make sense of her stories of this multi-ethnic area with shifting borders.

How have your interests changed since then?

Ultimately, my research focus shifted to an area far away from my family’s region. I thought it would give me a more neutral perspective. My grandparents just passed away this past year and my research shifted to the Transcarpathian region which is where my grandparents are from.

What is your current research/work project?

I recently started a project looking at a selection conducted at Auschwitz by Dr. Mengele in fall of 1944. Many of the victims were from the Transcarpathian region in the villages around my grandparents’ home. To understand the victims of this selection, I am exploring the various religious expressions and diverse cultures within Jewish Transcarpathia.  

What do you value about your ASEEES membership?

My ASEEES membership gives me the opportunity to discuss my research with scholars that approach my research interests from a variety of disciplinary approaches and who look at the same geographic areas through a myriad of ethnic groups’ lenses. Studying this area of the world with so many languages and cultures in one area can be a challenge and ASEEES provides a venue for all of these amazing researchers to interact and learn from each other.

Besides your professional work, what other interests and/or hobbies do you enjoy?

When I am not researching or teaching, I spend time with my family. I am mother to two little boys, aged five and two. Running around with them (or after them!) keeps me pretty busy.