by Amy Kuhre
When it comes to Pittsburgh pride, Max Buriak isn't modest. Asked about his blog, LeavingPittsburgh.com, the web designer credits his late father.
"My dad was sort of a Lawrenceville philosopher," says Buriak, speaking by phone from his office on the South Side. "We were always discussing these ideas he had."
His father, Fredrick Buriak, Jr., once imagined the name for his son's current project: a community website for people to share stories about moving away from Pittsburgh. Hearing Buriak describe his father's take on LeavingPittsburgh's potential imparts a kind of romanticism to the simple website.
"When we discussed this project, he thought it could be like a message board -- similar to the rural billboards that existed during World War II," says Buriak, 30. "When European cities were bombed and families were separated, they left messages for each other so they could be found."
The site has been up only since July of this year, and as of late October there were more than 80 stories, many of them only a few sentences long. Most are anonymous; others use first name only.
Reasons for leaving can be as complicated as someone's sensitivity to surroundings:
It's one of the most claustrophobic cities I've lived in. The weather with its low, overcast skies, combined with the hills all around and the general mentality of the average citizen, make me want to throw myself off the U Pitt tower.
But more often, people lament lack of jobs:
My husband lost his job and there was no work similar in his field. He searched for an engineering position for 6 months, with no offers or interviews. We moved to the DC area where he was offered a contracting job. We've met a lot of Pittsburgh ex-pats where we live.
Such stories are not uncommon in Buriak's experience, as he also feels a sense of loss due to economic conditions that have driven away so many.
"You hear this a lot: talented people who were born and raised and even educated here, unable to find jobs. There's a part of me that wishes they could stay and build something great."
In addition to serving those who must leave and those considering it, Buriak hopes the site will reach local politicians and business owners, who may have the influence to reverse destructive trends.
He's considered other incarnations of the site. "We talked about doing a podcast or even digital vignettes. The domain name is ours for at least the next ten years; right now, it's about the stories."