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Othar Zaldastani

Othar Zaldastani was born in Tbilisi on August 10, 1922, the son of Colonel Soliko Zaldastanishvili and Mariam Hirsely; and grandson of Nicholas Zaldastanishvili and Anna Tzitzishvili, and of Esthate Hirsely and Varvara Vatchnadze.  He left Georgia in 1925, with his mother and brother Guivy, to rejoin his father in Paris.  After the failure of the Georgian insurrection of 1924 against the Soviet occupying forces, Colonel Zaldastanishvili   (who had been one of the leaders of the insurrection) had taken refuge in Paris to join the exiled Georgian Government and its military staff under the command of General Kvintadze.

Othar Zaldastani grew up in France and was educated in some of its most prestigious academic institutions: the Sorbonne and the “Grandes Ecoles”.  He passed the Baccalaureat in 1939 with Honors, completed the program of Mathematiques Speciales at the Lycee E9 St. Louis in Paris, obtained a Degree of Sciences from the Sorbonne and the Diplome from the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausses (the oldest school of engineering in the world) where he graduated second in his class in  1945. He left France in 1946 to pursue scientific studies and research at Harvard University and was awarded a Master of Science Degree in 1947 and a Doctor of Science Degree in 1950.  His fields of interest covered several branches of Applied Science and Engineering and Applied Mathematics.

Dr. Zaldastani settled in Boston where his mother and brother had come to join him in 1948.  He became an American citizen in 1956.  He started his professional career as a Consulting Engineer while also continuing to be involved in academic and research programs.  He was appointed Gordon MacKay Visiting Lecturer in Structural Mechanics at Harvard in 1961 and commissioned by the U. S. Navy, Institute of Naval Studies to analyze the dynamics of submarine flexible hulls.

As Dr. Zaldastani’s practice evolved, his major activities became more concentrated in the design of structures participating  in more than 1000 projects in the United States, Europe, Africa and the Middle East including college and university buildings, long span structures, housing, hospitals, small structures such as the World War  II United States Armed Services Memorial in Caen, France, and major transportation and commercial centers, cultural and religious buildings   like the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington D.C., the second largest church in the United States.  Dr. Zaldastani was President of Zaldastani Associates, Inc. from 1964 to 1989 and Chairman until 1997. He is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in the World.

Dr. Zaldastani was a recognized authority in his engineering fields.  He was the recipient of many of the National Awards given yearly to the best engineered projects in the United States by professional institutes.  For example, he received the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC) Awards in 1973, 1977, 1978, 1985, 1986, and 1987.  He is Co-Inventor of a Prestressed Concrete Beam and Deck System – U. S. Patent #3, #465, #484.

Othar served on the Board of several academic, business   and civic organizations such as a Trustee of Brooks School (Massachusetts) and Acting Chairman of its Building Department Committee 1987-1996; Trustee and Corporation Member of Wheelock College, Boston, Massachusetts, 1975-1995.  He was elected President of the Georgian Association in the United States in 1958 and served until 1965, and a Director of the American Friends of Georgia.

On June 22, 1963 Othar Zaldastani married Elizabeth Reily Bailey of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Mrs. Zaldastani is a descendant of distinguished families from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.  Together they have three children: Elizabeth, who also served as President of the Georgian Association, Anne and Alexander.

From his early days in France, Othar Zaldastani was exposed to and involved in Georgian Affairs.  The Georgian colony in Paris, determined to free Georgia from the Soviet occupation and communist oppression, was politically very active, but it was also very conscious of the need to nurture the younger generation with Georgian values.  Othar Zaldastani grew up in this political and cultural environment sustained by his father and godfather, Kakoutza Tcholokhashvili and his family’s dedication held the Georgian legacy alive in the Zaldastani Family.  Othar Zaldastani, Guivy Zaldastani and Elizabeth Zaldastani Napier and all their family have taken many initiatives to develop the educational, cultural and economic conditions of Georgia and maintain its heritage and identity.  In 1997, Othar Zaldastani and Guivy Zaldastani were granted Honorary Citizenship from the Georgian Government.

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The Georgian Association Supports the Recent Russia Sanctions Bill

On June 14th, the U.S. Senate passed a crucial amendment to the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act (S.722) by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 97-2. S.Amend232 adds new sanctions targeting various sectors in Russia’s economy, as well as sanctions against individuals affiliated with Russia’s defense sector. Critically, all existing sanctions imposed on Russia for its illegal annexation of Crimea and its military invasion of Ukraine would become codified into law under this legislation. The bill would help ensure that sanctions against the Russian Federation will remain in place until the withdrawal of all covert and overt Russian forces and equipment from Ukraine. For clarification, Russian sanctions have been added to the Iran bill to avoid introduction of a new bill.

Georgia continues to be subjected to Russian aggression on its territorial integrity.  In the most recent example of this aggression, Russian troops advanced further into the Georgian controlled territory in the Tskhinvali Region.  Therefore the Georgian Association supports The Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act.  This act has now been sent to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it faces an uncertain future. Tentative discussions have not resulted in a consensus on the scope and depth of a Russia sanctions-regime bill.

The GA encourages Georgian Americans and friends of Georgia to contact their Congressional Representative to petition support of a Russia sanction bill similar to that passed in the U.S. Senate. A sample letter shown below can be submitted online at: www.house.gov. Simply log onto the website, find your Representative and complete the online form to submit your correspondence.

Sample Letter

The Honorable (name)

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative (name):

As an American of Georgian descent and supportive of Eastern European countries that have suffered under Russian aggression, I am deeply concerned about Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine. Beginning with the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014, the Russian Federation has violated numerous tenets of international law and order. Such actions must be rebuked by Ukraine’s strategic allies and the global community of democratic nations.

Recent legislation by the U.S. Senate – S722 & S.Amend232 – would seek to impose stricter sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and interference in our electoral process. I highly encourage and request that you support a similar bill in the U.S. House of Representatives. Punitive actions against Russia must be taken immediately to thwart future acts of aggression and interference against all free nations. I look forward to your active support of this issue.

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Annual reception of the Georgian Association in the US

On June 12, 2017, the Georgian Association in the US hosted its traditional annual reception to celebrate Georgian independence and recognize friends of Georgia who contribute to the US-Georgian partnership and who help and support Georgia. This year the Georgian Association honored Mr. Kenneth Angell, Managing Director, Project Finance, Small and Medium Enterprise Department, Overseas Private Investment Corporation. Mr. Angell was awarded for his tireless effort for almost two decades to facilitate US investments, economic development and job creation in Georgia. He is a true friend of Georgia. Mr. Tsotne Dadiani, member of the Board of Directors of the Association, read a message from the President of the Georgian Association, Ms. Elisso Kvitashvili, announcing the recipient of the GA’s annual award. Mr. Mamuka Tsereteli, also a Board Member, introduced Mr. Angell to the audience and presented the award to him.

The Georgian Association also announced its continued support for the Academy of the Georgian Heritage, an important organization dedicated to the education of Georgian American children in the Georgian language and cultural heritage. The Georgian Association awarded the Academy with a grant of $4,000 to support the development of new educational programs at the Academy.

Traditionally, Guests enjoyed Georgian wines and food.

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May 26 – Georgian Independence Day

 

99 years ago on May 26, 1918, the independence of Georgia was restored.  After a century of foreign, Russian domination, Georgia once again took her rightful place among the free nations of the world.  The place which belonged to her for over 2000 years from the 4th century BC until 1801, the year in which Georgia was incorporated into the Russian empire.

From the very early days of her history Georgia came under the influence of the Graeco-Roman culture; she became Christian in the first quarter of the fourth century A.D. and ever since then has been an outpost of Christianity and western culture in the East. For centuries, almost uninterruptedly, she waged a battle for her independence and liberty, for her faith and culture.  Romans, Byzantines, Persians, Arabs, Mongols, and Turks, all tried to crush her. She was many times defeated, but she was never subdued. Throughout history Georgia has preserved her identity, her race, language and proud traditions. Incessantly fighting, gradually losing power, Georgia reached the modern age. She was not by then the great power she was in the 11th 12th and 13th centuries, but she was still independent and it was as a sovereign monarch, that on July 24, 1783 King Heraclius II signed a treaty of friendship with the empire of the czars. But a few years later, in 1801, the treaty was treacherously and brutally violated by Russia and Georgia was incorporated into the Russian Empire by force of arms. Although tired and powerless after centuries of efforts, Georgia did not submit, and rebellions and uprisings became a pattern of life there. In spite of oppression, in spite of intense efforts of Russification, the empire of the czars did not succeed in in its aims and Georgians still remained Georgians, never for a moment forgetting their proud heritage and only waiting for an opportune moment. This moment came with the defeat of Russia in the first World War, the Russian revolution and the breakup of the Russian empire.

On May 26, 1918, the independence of Georgia was proclaimed by the Georgian National Council consisting of representatives of all the Georgian political parties and organizations, and once again Georgians could enjoy all those rights which are the inalienable rights of man – the right to be governed by those of their own choosing, the right to speak their own language, to worship as they choose, to say and write freely whatever they wish.

During the next three years Georgia proved to the world that she was ready and able to manage her own affairs. Universal, free, truly democratic elections were held and a Parliament elected. This Parliament passed a written constitution, proclaimed absolute equality of race and sex, freedom of speech and religion; gave land to those who toiled it and passed many other laws and reforms, which proved the political maturity of the Georgian nation and of her leaders. The world recognized this fact. 27 nations, including the Supreme Allied Council consisting of Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium and Japan extended de Jure recognition to the young Republic.

And so did Soviet Russia.  A treaty between Georgia and Russia was signed in Moscow on May 7, 1920. The Soviets recognized unconditionally the full and absolute sovereignty of Georgia and promised to have friendly, neighborly relations with her. However, only eight months later, in February 1921, without any provocation, without even a declaration of war, the Russian army began an attack on Georgia and after six weeks of bitter, unequal fighting occupied the country. Occupied, but did not subdue. The Georgian people never submitted to Soviet communism. The fight against communism began on February 11, 1921,. A nationwide, general insurrection, which broke out in August 1924. Tens of thousands of Georgian’s were executed in the years between 1921 and 1941; hundreds of thousands deported, most of them never to return. It is difficult to estimate how many more did this country of less than 4 million inhabitants loose between 1941 and 1991 when Georgia’s in dependence was restored.

This originally appeared in the May, 1954 issue of “Le Destin de la Georgie”. It was written by Merab Kvitashvili.  The Georgian Association is reprinting and updating with the permission of the author’s daughters, Elisso and Mary in honor of their late father.

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Interesting features of Georgian American history

     In the Georgian Association’s run up to the 100 year anniversary of Georgia’s Independence, we will spotlight interesting features of Georgian American history. Today’s piece provides a snapshot of the Georgian diaspora in the U.S.

     The first Georgian diaspora organization in the United States was Kartuli Sazogadoeba (the Georgian Society) founded in San Francisco, California in 1924.  In 1930, the Caucasian Society “Alaverdi” was formed to unite different Caucasian groups, and in the 1950s it ran a children’s summer camp.  In 1931, the Kartuli sazogadoeba Amerikis sheertebul shtatebshi (the Georgian Association in the United States, or Georgian Association), which was more exclusively Georgian, was founded by, among others, Prince George Machabeli, Siko Eristavi, Paul Kvaratskhelia and Irakli Orbeliani. The Georgian Association remains fully operational today and is the only nationwide Georgian diaspora group in the US.

   In the 1950s, many of the new Georgian emigrants became enthusiastic supporters of US anti-communist policies.  More politicized than their predecessors, they formed a number of leagues and parties: the Kartuli-Amerikuli liga (Georgian-American League), the Kartuli erovnuli kavshiri (Georgian National Union) and Sakartvelos damoukideblobis Amerikuli sabcho (American Council for Independent Georgia).  The Georgian-American League published a newspaper, the Voice of Free Georgia, from 1953-58. The Voice’s Board of Directors included a number of familiar Georgian names such as Tsomaia, Chatara, Tchenkeli, Dumbadze among others. The Bulletin was widely distributed to members of Congress as part of a broader anti-Soviet information campaign. The American Council for Independent Georgia published Chveni Gza (Our Path).  Many Georgians patriots living in the U.S. Included members of the GA, provided many of the details and significant information that led to the 1954 release by the House Select Committee on Communist Aggression of the document, “Communist Takeover and Occupation of Georgia”. http://georgica.tsu.edu.ge/files/06-History/Soviet%20Era/US%20Congress-1954.pdf

    Between 1955-75, the broader and less politicized community was served by the newspaper Kartuli Azri (Georgian Opinion).  Starting in 1951, Georgians were awarded their own radio section on the Voice of America (recently celebrating its 65th year of operation) which still functions today with a small staff of dedicated Georgian journalists and broadcasters.  A biography of Petre Kvedelidze, a former VOA correspondent, is posted on our website.

    Until the 1980s, the Georgian Association ran a cultural center known as the Georgian House. As noted earlier, the Georgian Association is the oldest diaspora organization In the U.S. representing the interests of the Georgian American community and its friends of which there is a growing number including former U.S. diplomats and development workers who served in Georgia, American businessmen, former Peace Corps volunteers and private citizens. . With over 1500 and growing number of Facebook friends, the organization has renewed its charitable, educational and cultural activities in the United States, focusing also on greater awareness about Georgia among American politicians, members of Congress, expert communities etc.   The Association organizes annual celebrations including for Georgian Independence Day (May 26th — it marks the Declaration of Independence of the first Georgian Republic of 1918-21). The Association also promotes and educates the public about different Congressional resolutions including House Resolutions like H.Res.660 in 2016 “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives to support the territorial integrity of Georgia”. It is also an active member of the Central and East European Coalition of Diasporas. Several other Georgian organizations have been created since 1991 to help Georgian society through a period of extraordinary economic deprivation and chaos.  One example is the American Friends of Georgia created in 1994 and based in Massachusetts. The American Friends of Georgia is a humanitarian organization that funds a number of programs in Georgia that fight tuberculosis, supports orphanages, distributes food packages for the poor and books for libraries.  Other important Georgian-American non-profit and cultural organizations include the America-Georgian Business Council which since 1998 promotes U.S. investment to and trade with Georgia), Tvistomi in New York (humanitarian community organization), the US-Georgian Friendship Association in San-Diego. The highly acclaimed Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virginia and the New York-based Dancing Crane Company represent efforts to showcase Georgian theatre and dance.  And finally, given the growing number of Americans of Georgian Orthodox ancestry, beginning in 2011, multiple Georgian orthodox parishes began to emerge in different states including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Illinois and California.

Petre at his 95th birthday party at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Petre Kvedelidze, Georgian-American Patriot

Petre Kvedelidze tirelessly promoted the rich culture of his homeland from the time he arrived in America in 1956 until his passing in 2014 at the age of 95.   He wanted Americans to learn and appreciate the history and nationalism of the Georgian people.  He took a special interest in helping new Georgian immigrants assimilate into the United States, and shared with them his values and how they should keep their Georgian identity alive.  He also encouraged them to embrace and serve the United States, to respect its values, and embrace future immigrants, as he had embraced them.  He was once referred to as the heart and soul of the Georgian diaspora in Washington.

Petre’s strong nationalism was influenced early in his life. A few months before his birth in Tbilisi in 1918, the Russian Empire, which had ruled Georgia for over a century, had fallen, making way for a free Georgia.  This freedom lasted less than three years when in early 1921, the newly formed Soviet Union invaded, and ultimately defeated Georgian resistance. The democratic government fled, and a communist government, sympathetic to Moscow was installed, followed by full integration into the Soviet Union in 1924. These events influenced Petre’s life, values, and character.  The Kvedelidze family was vehemently anti-communist, anti-Russian, and had a very strong love of Georgia. These views were instilled in Petre, and would shape him for life.

He was called to the Red Army in 1939 for his military service and first served in a regiment of Georgian recruits.  He was assigned as an interpreter with Russian-speaking officers, and was sent to Ukraine and Bessarabia. A few days after the declaration of the German-Russian war in June 1941, his detachment was captured by the Romanian army and handed over to the German army. He was placed in a prisoner-of-war camp in Romania, where he would stay for the next nine months.

He enlisted in the German army as did many of the Georgians captured by the Germans because they wanted to free their homeland from the Soviets, and not because they believed in the German cause. While fighting in the German army, Petre was badly injured. He was evacuated first to occupied Warsaw, and then to Munich for rehabilitation. After the German surrender in May 1945, the US Army offered the Georgians a choice to return to Russia or go to France.  Most of the Georgians chose not to return to Russia for fear of reprisals, so Petre and other Georgians went to France which today has a large Georgian community.

Once in France, Petre saw similarities to the Russian-backed communist aggression against Georgia to the communist aggression against France’s colonies in Southeast Asia. Petre enlisted in the French Foreign Legion where there were already some Georgian officers. He was deployed to Africa, and after a few months was sent to Southeast Asia to fight against anti-French communist factions. During this war, Petre suffered his second major combat injury, which required rehabilitation for nearly three years.

After his rehabilitation in France, Petre decided to immigrate to America which he viewed as having the best political system in the world.  He came to America in 1956, became a US citizen in 1963, and joined the Georgian desk of the Voice of America in 1967 where he served as a sports correspondent.  He later worked in a broader role at VOA, translating English news into Georgian for radio broadcasts, eventually becoming an on-air correspondent covering American culture and politics until his retirement in 1985.  In his retirement years he continued to meet with his numerous Georgian and American friends, often at his favorite kabob restaurant in Arlington.

In the last few years of his life, Petre took a special interest in visiting soldiers from the Georgian army who were undergoing rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  The soldiers were recovering from serious wounds suffered in Iraq and Afghanistan while supporting American and other Coalition military forces. He celebrated his 95th birthday at the center with them.  Petre was proud that a small country was making such a sacrifice of their young men.  Additional information about Georgia’s support to the U.S military is described in a separate posting on this website.

Upon his passing, his body was flown to Tbilisi, and laid to rest with a traditional Georgian Orthodox funeral attended by approximately 150 people at the prominent Didubis Panteoni. Some of the soldiers that met Petre at Walter Reed had already returned to Georgia and were in attendance.  His wish to return to Georgia and be buried there was fulfilled. Petre will be remembered for his kindness, hospitality, dignity, refined manners, and most of all for his love of Georgia and its people.