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August 23, 2020 marks the 31st anniversary of the Baltic Way when over two million people joined hands to form a human chain across 400 miles connecting Vilnius, Riga, and Tallinn to protest Soviet rule.
To mark this anniversary, Lithuanians are forming a new human chain from Vilnius to the border with Belarus to show support for Belarus’s struggle against Lukashenka’s dictatorship. The dictator has claimed 80% of the vote in the elections that took place on August 9. The people of Belarus have been peacefully protesting ever since despite the brutal crackdown by the riot police. At least 5 people have died so far, dozens are still missing, several are expected to remain severely physically disabled for life, and hundreds more will endure PTSD.
Since Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia have embassies in Washington, DC, and the diaspora populations of all four countries are large, we have decided to replicate the human chain on a smaller scale and connect the four embassies.
People are asked to start at the Embassy of Lithuania, 2622 16th Street NW in DC by noon and take a spot in the human chain down 16th Street NW toward the Embassy of Belarus at 1619 New Hampshire Ave NW, and then possibly on to the embassies of Estonia and Latvia on Massachusetts Ave NW.
We are inviting anyone who cares about free and fair elections, freedom of speech, and separation of powers to join us.
MASKS ARE MANDATORY FOR ALL PARTICIPANTS. GLOVES STRONGLY RECOMMENDED. SOCIAL DISTANCING WILL BE ENFORCED TO COMPLY WITH MPD REGULATIONS.
PLEASE BRING SASHES, LINENS, RIBBONS TO ASSIST WITH DISTANCING.
SIGNS and POSTERS CAN SAY:
BALTIC WAY – 1989 – LITHUANIA – LATVIA – ESTONIA
FREEDOM WAY – 2020 – VILNIUS – BELARUS
Please dress or bring ribbons and/or balloons in these colors:
Belarus – white and red (more white)
Estonia – blue, black, and white
Latvia – red and white (more red)
Lithuania – yellow, green, and red
If you are coming to represent another diaspora, feel free to display your colors, too.
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The Central and East European Coalition (CEEC), representing over 20 million Americans of central and eastern European heritage, is writing to express our concern over the prospect of withdrawing large numbers of American troops from Germany. Such a move would directly weaken the security of frontline states like Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland – and of the United States and the rest of NATO by extension; reduce U.S. influence in Europe; and embolden Russian President Putin to continue or increase his aggressive policies that threaten European democracy and transatlantic security.
These U.S. forces in Germany are what give operational credibility to American and NATO forces operating out of Poland and the Enhanced Forward Presence battalions in the Baltic nations. Many members of our communities have served in the U.S. armed forces, often in the European theater, and understand that Germany holds a unique position in the transatlantic alliance. Cleary, it has not yet increased its defense spending to the 2% threshold members pledged over ten years at the 2014 NATO summit in Wales. At the same time, the German government has allowed the U.S. and other allies to build bases, airfields, hospitals and communities, and host tens of thousands of servicemembers and their families, on German soil. This is an indispensable contribution to the success of NATO and the deterrence the alliance has enforced since 1949. The infrastructure and force presence established in Germany cannot be reduced or replicated elsewhere without compromising the military power they have come to represent.
NATO’s continued success depends on solidarity and strengthening the trust and relationships built among its allies over seven decades. Withdrawing U.S. forces from Germany would gravely undermine that trust and those relationships. The CEEC calls for U.S. policy and action that uphold the long history of American leadership in NATO to ensure that transatlantic security remains strong and effective. To this end, we ask that U.S. force levels in Germany remain at their current levels or higher.
The CEEC was established in 1994 and represents more than 20 million American voters whose heritage lies in this region. Its member organizations cooperate in calling attention to issues of mutual concern, especially as regards United States policy toward Central and East Europe. The CEEC regularly shares its concerns and ideas with the United States Congress and Administration.
We thank you for your consideration on this vitally important issue to U.S. national security. Please contact the undersigned at email@example.com with any questions or comments.
On behalf of the CEEC,
Karin A. Shuey
Commander, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Washington, DC Director
Estonian American National Council
Cc: Secretary of Defense
Secretary of State
Chairman and Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee
Chairman and Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee
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August has a special meaning for Georgians. On August 7, 2008, military forces from the Russian government supporting separatists from Abkhazia and South Ossetia invaded Georgia resulting in the five-day Russo-Georgia war. Georgia suffered numerous casualties, and thousands of citizens were displaced and many still to this day. Although a cease-fire was negotiated between Georgia and the Russian government on August 12, 2008, the latter still occupies Georgia’s sovereign territory. The Russian government violates international norms in Georgia by annexing property, arbitrarily changing boundaries, destroying housing in the Tskhinvali region, and seizing farmland. It has also conducted kidnappings, arbitrary arrests, murders, harassment, and intimidation of private citizens. Georgians are historically resilient people and proud of their culture and traditions, and have earned the respect and support of the United States government. The U.S. government continues to press the Russian government to remove its troops and paramilitary forces from sovereign Georgian territory, and most recently Secretary of State Michael Pompeo reiterated U.S. support for Georgia’s sovereignty in a call with Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia. Georgia has survived many invasions of its territory dating back centuries. It will survive this most recent illegal incursion by the Russian government.
The Georgian Association in the USA stands with all Georgians in remembrance of this dark time in Georgia’s history, but one from which the county will continue on its path to a stronger democracy and economic power in eastern Europe.
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.
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 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
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.