For most of her AEW career, Leyla Hirsch was introduced as hailing from Hillsborough, New Jersey. That’s where she lived with the parents who adopted her when she was 8 years old.
As part of her recent heel turn over the past several months, that’s changed to the place of her birth — Moscow, Russia. It’s a slight tweak which made sense. While international relations in 2021 weren’t like the 1980s, we had returned to a point where Russian was a relatively tame signifier of a bad guy or gal.
That changed with Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, and the images of civilian victims of Russia’s aggression that have flooded our screens since it began. AEW & Hirsch have since dropped the “from Moscow” part of her introduction, but on Sunday (Mar. 6) at Revolution, Leyla was still wearing the colors of the Russian flag on her gear.
Most people didn’t think anything of it. It’s not pro-Putin, or even overtly Russian (their flag’s colors are red, white & blue... sound familiar?). But it was enough to trigger some folks, including a few semi-prominent right wing talking heads.
Yesterday (Mar. 10), Hirsch issued a statement in support of Ukariane. She didn’t mention her attire from The Buy-In, or even acknowledge the criticism. But her position is clear:
“I want to make something very clear. I stand with Ukraine one hundred percent and my heart breaks for its citizens who are suffering at the hands of Vladimir Putin. I was born in Russia. I came to the US at eight years of age and became an American citizen. I cannot change my heritage any more than any other citizen can change theirs. The mere fact that I was born in Russia does not mean that I support this brutal dictator. Everyone who would even suggest such a thing is simply wrong, plain and simple.”
Even aside from the fact that being of Russian heritage doesn’t mean you support the country’s government, and that Hirsch is playing a character, anyone using this to score Twitter points should remember that Leyla’s turn was in the works long before Putin’s war on the Ukrainian people started, and ring gear isn’t cheap.
Since that apparently didn’t occur to them before they tweeted, now they know where she stands. In the process, we all got a reminder that overly sensitive people and social media attention-seekers come from every point along the political spectrum.