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Georgian Association’s former Board Member, Mamia Zakradze has celebrated his 100th birthday!

Mamia Zakradze’s life story is a tribute to the struggles of his generation of Georgians. Born in Gomi, Georgia, on April 10, 1920, Mamia Zakradze’s youth fell on fighting the Nazis in WWII. After the war ended, Mamia stayed in Germany where he met the love of his life, Helena Seitz. They had two children together, Alfred and Vera Zakradze. However, because of the Iron Curtain he lost touch with his parents and relatives in Georgia, who did not even know that he survived the war until early 60s.

In 1950s, Mamia got involved with the work of the Georgian Association in the United States, which sponsored his and his family’s arrival to the US. The family arrived via Ellis Island like many other post-WWII immigrants. They originally settled in New York City before moving to College Point, NY where Mamia Zakradze currently resides.

For almost 30 years, Mamia Zakradze’s life was closely intertwined with the Georgian Association in the US where he was a member of the Board and proud supporter of all Georgian causes from 1950 through 1989. Mamia supported many noble Georgian initiatives, including the creation of Camp Alaverdi in Cold Spring, NY, a summer camp for kids from the Caucasus. At the invitation of the founder of the camp, Siko Eristavi, Mamia Zakradze became Vice President of Camp Alaverdi in 1964 and served there until his retirement in 1996. Even though the camp had to close soon after his retirement, Mamia remains optimistic that one day it will open again.

Despite all the struggles, Mamia Zarkadze’s life gives us optimism and belief in bright future for Georgia and the US.

The GA Board is wishing Mamia Zakradze a Very Happy 100th Birthday! Congratulations on this amazing milestone! What an honor it is to celebrate a century of life with you. May you continue to enjoy the journey of life.

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Georgian Association Celebrates Independence Day of Georgia, May 26

May 26 is a special day for Georgians. Over a century ago, on this date in 1918, Georgians declared independence from Russian rule and the formation of the Democratic Republic of Georgia (DRG). While the Soviet invasion in 1921 put an end to it just after three years of its establishment, DRG had solid foundations of a democratic political system, with strong parties and inclusive government based on popular participation.

After regaining its independence in 1993, Georgia still faces threats with the continuing presence of Russian Federation troops on Georgian sovereign territory and encroachment in some disputed areas of the country. Despite these challenges, Georgia has prevailed in achieving significant democratic reforms and has strengthened its economy to one of the strongest in the region. With its partnership built on both shared values and common interests, Georgia is a proud and robust ally of the United States.

Lately, Georgia’s successful battle against COVID-19 has been largely credited to the cooperation between our two countries. The past years of US technical assistance, construction of the Lugar Center, a world class infectious disease laboratory, and training of Georgian healthcare professionals proved to be instrumental in Georgia’s preparedness to successfully manage and contain the deadly virus.

American business is also investing in Georgia, and tourism continues to increase due to the rich culture of the country. With its well-educated population and continued political and economic reforms, the future is bright for Georgia and its citizens.

The Board of Directors of the Georgian Association wishes all Georgians and their friends a happy Independence Day.

Veronika Metonidze Profile

Veronika Metonidze – newly elected President of the Georgian Association in the USA

Veronika Metonidze is a Georgian and US attorney with 25 years of law practice and international development experience in two countries.

After moving to the United States in 2005, she continued to advance in her professional career and obtained professional licenses in Virginia and the District of Columbia. She has built and managed a successful full-service general practice servicing a diverse immigrant community. Prior to that she practiced immigration law at Miorini Law, PLLC and the National Capital Legal Services, Inc. In addition, the Veronika specializes in White Collar Crime and Anti-Corruption investigations and litigation.

Veronika has a long history of non-profit community capacity building in both countries. While in the US, Veronika has actively contributed and promoted all initiatives aimed at strengthening Georgian Community in the US such as GeorgianDC online forum, Georgian Center, Academy of Georgian Heritage and others. In Georgia, she was one of the founding members of Georgian Young Lawyers Association, the first professional non-profit organization in newly independent Georgia.

Before her legal career in the US, Ms. Metonidze practiced Georgian law and actively participated in the legislative process of Georgia. She also steered International development efforts in Georgia and focused on Democracy Building, Judicial and Legal Profession reforms. She consulted on multiple international projects of the World Bank, IMF, EBRD, USAID, IOM and other international organizations.

Veronika earned her L.L.M degree in International Legal Studies from American University College of Law and studied European Law at Sorbonne University, Paris, France.

Bar Admissions: Virginia, District of Columbia Courts US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia

Professional Affiliation: American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA); Fairfax Bar Association

Languages: English, French, Russian, Georgian

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Thank You to Elisabeth (Elisso) Kvitashvili

Elisso Kvitashvili, president of the Georgian Association in the USA will be stepping down from this position after four years.  The Board of Directors of the Association recognizes and thanks Elisso for the many important contributions she has made while serving as president.  Since our annual celebration of the Georgian Independence scheduled for the end of April was postponed until next year due to the pandemic, the board is not able to properly recognize and thank Elisso for her leadership and commitment to the success of the association.  She has been a tireless advocate for Georgia, through her long-established relationships with the Georgian diaspora, interactions with congressional representatives, and promoting Georgia’s culture among both Georgians and others unfamiliar with the rich history of the country.  While Elisso is stepping down from the position, she will not be far away in continuing to provide her insights to the association.

Veronika Metonidze has been elected as the new president, and took over the the position effective May 1.  Veronika has been a long-term member of the board and is currently serving as the Secretary, one of the three officer positions in the association.  We wish her the best and look forward to working with her in continuing the important work of the association.

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Georgian Association statement regarding illegal detention of Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili

The Georgian Association in the United States, Inc. is alarmed and expresses its deep concern with the rising tensions and expansion of the humanitarian crisis at the occupation line of Georgia’s Russian-controlled Tskhinvali region (South Ossetia).

On November 9, 2019, the occupation regime illegally detained Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili, a well-known Georgian physician and president of the Georgian Association of Orthopedic Traumatologists. On November 15, 2019 he was sentenced to two months of pretrial detention. Dr. Gaprindashvili was detained while providing urgent medical help to a gravely injured local resident of the occupied Akhalgori district. The story of the patient’s condition and refusal of the Russian-controlled de facto authorities in Tskhinvali to transport the patient to Tbilisi has been widely reported. Following the arbitrary closure of the Mosabruni checkpoint by the de facto authorities in September of 2019, the local population has become totally isolated resulting in several deaths due to lack of access to adequate medical care.

The detention of Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili while fulfilling his duty as a doctor runs counter to all internationally recognized human rights.

The Georgian Association calls on US government representatives to:

– actively support efforts of the Georgian Government and International community to achieve the prompt release of Dr. Gaprindashvili from illegal custody;
– work with all sides involved to overcome the humanitarian crisis in the occupied territories and ensure local residents’ access to qualified medical care;

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House of Representatives Adopts Connolly-Kinzinger Georgia Support Act

Georgian Association in the USA is happy to share the news that on October 23 the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 598, the Georgia Support Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). The legislation asserts the United States’ continued support for the independence and sovereignty of Georgia, recognizes Georgia’s commitment to democratic values including free and fair elections, and affirms U.S. opposition to Russian aggression in the region.

As Representative Connoly stated: “With this vote, the House sends a clear and unequivocal statement of support to the people of Georgia in their struggle against an ever-looming Russian threat. As the head of the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, I am particularly pleased that this bill recognizes that Georgia has been a longstanding NATO-aspirant country. I thank my colleague, Rep. Kinzinger, for working with me to protect and strengthen the relationship between Georgia and the United States.”

“The United States plays a pivotal role in encouraging our Georgian allies to continue working towards independence and complete separation from their aggressive neighbor, Russia,” said Kinzinger. “And I’m proud of their efforts and aspirations to join the NATO alliance, and applaud their commitment to democratic values. Today, the House reasserted the importance of a strong U.S.-Georgia partnership, and I thank my colleagues for their support, especially Rep. Connolly for his efforts to bring this to the floor.”

Georgian Association in the USA expresses its deep gratitude to the initiating Representatives and Cosponsors of the Act and hopes for the continuous USA-Georgia cooperation.

Please follow the link for the full text of the legislation. More information here.

 

Cosponsors                                                                   Date Cosponsored

Rep. Kinzinger, Adam [R-IL-16]*                             01/16/2019

Rep. Rooney, Francis [R-FL-19]                                01/25/2019

Rep. Fitzpatrick, Brian K. [R-PA-1]                           01/25/2019

Rep. Wilson, Joe [R-SC-2]                                           01/25/2019

Rep. Sensenbrenner, F. James, Jr. [R-WI-5]            01/30/2019

Rep. Sherman, Brad [D-CA-30]                                   02/11/2019

Rep. Flores, Bill [R-TX-17]                                            02/14/2019

Rep. Chabot, Steve [R-OH-1]                                        02/19/2019

Rep. Kuster, Ann M. [D-NH-2]                                    03/21/2019

Rep. Keating, William R. [D-MA-9]                            04/04/2019

Rep. Crenshaw, Dan [R-TX-2]                                     04/09/2019

Rep. Wright, Ron [R-TX-6]                                          04/12/2019

Rep. Phillips, Dean [D-MN-3]                                     04/25/2019

Rep. Turner, Michael R. [R-OH-10]                           04/25/2019

Rep. Miller, Carol D. [R-WV-3]                                   04/25/2019

Rep. Cook, Paul [R-CA-8]                                             04/25/2019

Rep. Kaptur, Marcy [D-OH-9]                                     04/25/2019

Rep. Hudson, Richard [R-NC-8]                                 05/01/2019

Rep. Wagner, Ann [R-MO-2]                                       05/20/2019

Rep. Trone, David J. [D-MD-6]                                   05/20/2019

Rep. Gonzalez, Vicente [D-TX-15]                               05/20/2019

Rep. Guest, Michael [R-MS-3]                                     05/20/2019

Rep. Cicilline, David N. [D-RI-1]                                 05/22/2019

Rep. Titus, Dina [D-NV-1]                                             05/22/2019

Rep. Cohen, Steve [D-TN-9]                                         06/05/2019

Rep. Riggleman, Denver [R-VA-5]                              06/12/2019

Rep. Rice, Tom [R-SC-7]                                               07/23/2019

Rep. Schweikert, David [R-AZ-6]                                09/17/2019

Rep. Taylor, Van [R-TX-3]                                            10/21/2019

Rep. Price, David E. [D-NC-4]                                     10/21/2019

Startup Grind

Georgian Association Partner Startup Grind Tbilisi to host International Startup Conference

Join world-class founders and funders in an exploration of the frontier markets from Eastern Europe through Central Asia. Hosted at the ancient Silk Road destination Tbilisi, it will showcase Georgia’s legendary hospitality and creativity & will provide a welcoming and exciting environment to mingle with brilliant founders and investors and inspiring visionaries in a variety of fields.

For more information please follow the link.

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Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program 2019

ColumbiaGorgeGeorgiaBrochuresFromEmbassyGiftedToStudentPanelVolunteersThe inaugural Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program took place from May 11 to 20 in Portland and was organized by Global Youth Entrepreneurs. The goal of the program was to provide a group of enterprising high schoolers from Georgia with the opportunity to participate in a collaborative entrepreneurial project and citywide startup event, experience academic and student life at one of the top grade schools in the country, network with like-minded Oregon students, entrepreneurs, and community leaders, and tour the city and state in the spirit of exchange. The Georgian Association partially funded this initiative as part of its expanding engagement to support connections between US counterparts and Georgian entrepreneurs of all ages!

School XXI Century in Tbilisi, Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ educational partner in Georgia, sent tenth-grade students Levan Gvineria and Luka Todua on the exchange, along with English teacher Irma Kalmakhelidze as a chaperone. Eleventh-grade student Mariam Gogidze of the European School in Tbilisi completed the delegation. XXI Century selected Gvineria and Todua based on their demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and diplomacy and excellent performance on a series of English examinations, while Global Youth Entrepreneurs invited Gogidze for her leading role in growing Tbilisi’s community of high school entrepreneurs. The Georgian Association in the USA, Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency, and Kargi Gogo (the Northwestern United States’ only Georgian restaurant, located in Portland, OR) generously sponsored the students’ travel to Portland, and the United States Embassy in Georgia hosted the students for an orientation prior to their visit to the United States. Seth Talyansky, who accompanied the group throughout the week, Solomon Olshin, Britton Masback, and Li Lambert of Global Youth Entrepreneurs arranged the group’s itinerary in the U.S.

In Portland, the participants were taken aback by the prevalence of homelessness, a rarity in Tbilisi. They found such cases of social isolation and neglect by fellow citizens anathema to Georgian culture. For their entrepreneurial project, the students set about designing ways to diffuse cultural traits like strong family ties and social cohesion into a society that tends to emphasize individual independence and success. The students received continuous mentorship from WorldOregon, which hosted their project work. They also visited Autodesk, eBay, and Intel, where technologists, entrepreneurs, and other company staff applauded their efforts to tackle the problem of their choice and offered feedback on ideas. Ultimately, after several days of work, Gvineria and Todua produced a resolution outlining a multi-pronged approach to combating homelessness for the city government to consider, and Gogidze devised a plan for a compassion-building game app for young children.  On the weekend of May 17 to 19, and together with around 30 peers from ten Portland-area high schools, the students took part in Startup Camp Youth Portland 2019, Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ third such event around the world. Startup Camp Youth Portland was hosted and sponsored by the Catlin Gabel School. All but a few students pitched business or non-profit ideas on Friday night, and teams coalesced around the five most popular ideas. On Saturday and most of Sunday, teams developed their concepts under the mentorship of about a dozen local business, entrepreneurship, innovation, and education experts before presenting to fellow students and distinguished guest judges on Sunday evening. The two top-performing teams—the first designing motivational programs for youth with speech impediments and the second proposing an app incentivizing carbon consciousness among those who commute by car—came away with prizes from Intel and Nike.

The Georgian Association was pleased to be able to support the Tbilisi-Portland Youth Entrepreneurial Exchange Program 2019 which represents a milestone in a burgeoning creative partnership between the youth and, ultimately, citizenries, of Portland and Tbilisi. This exchange represents Global Youth Entrepreneurs’ next logical effort, after its Startup Weekend Youth Tbilisi event last June, to foster the autonomous participation of Georgia’s young people in their country’s economy, which will promote democracy and prosperity in Georgia. Multiple appearances on television have been arranged for Gvineria, Todua, and their teacher to tell the story of their visit to Portland to a national audience. To carry this momentum forward, Global Youth Entrepreneurs plans to hold an event in Batumi next summer in partnership with a local educational institute and School XXI Century that will draw student participants from all across the country together for a weekend of immersion in entrepreneurship and diplomacy. Global Youth Entrepreneurs will also advise Gogidze on the execution of the second iteration of Startup Weekend Youth Tbilisi in June (this time not affiliated with Startup Weekend), which she is organizing at the European School together with several classmates. This program holds promise as a model of youth-led cross-cultural engagement and exchange that can be replicated between any pair of cities or countries. The government, commercial, and non-profit actors who interfaced with the students underlined the value of—and their support for—bringing in fresh cultural perspectives on local issues, especially those, like homelessness, to which many Americans have become desensitized. Gogidze, Gvineria, and Todua are eager to continue developing the projects they began in Portland, inspired by the lesson all youth involved in this program took away: organic collaboration between youth across borders is key to strengthening international understanding and ties.

The program in the participants’ words:

“Luka and I valued the experience: getting to know American teens, looking into homelessness and other traits of the city. From meeting with the companies and leaders, we realized that if you have a goal to achieve and you are doing everything to make it real, nothing is impossible. —Levan Gvineria, 10th Grade, School XXI Century, Tbilisi

“During the startup camp, I worked on problems that I’d never faced before which was a very rewarding experience for me as I had to collaborate with people of diverse cultures and ethnicities to form an understanding of those problems.” —Mariam Gogidze, 11th Grade, European School, Tbilisi

“I’ve never seen students gain so much wisdom in so few days.” —Irma Kalmakhelidze, English Teacher, School XXI Century, Tbilisi