FRESNO — Mayor Ashley Swearengin and Council member Andreas Borgeas held a press conference in front of the City Hall Council Chambers on Friday, October 30, to announce the formation of its newest Sister City partnership between Fresno and the City of Echmiadzin, Armenia.
Pauline Basmajian and Migran Kutnerian represented the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party (ADL) and Tekeyan Cultural Association, respectively of Fresno, joined Sister City committee members and representatives of some 20 religious, political and cultural organizations to welcome the news, including Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Fresno, St. Paul Armenian Church of Fresno, St. Gregory Armenian Church of Fowler, St. Mary Armenian Church of Yettem, the Armenian American Citizen League (AACL), the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), the Armenian National Committee (ANC), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), the Armenian Relief Society (ARS), the Armenian Technology Group, the Daughters of Vartan, the Knights of Vartan, Homenetmen, Hamazkayin Cultural Association and the Triple X Fraternity Fresno & Selma Chapters.
“The City of Fresno is blessed with a vibrant and robust Armenian community that has contributed so much to our way of life here in Fresno and throughout the entire San Joaquin Valley,” said Swearengin, adding, “I am proud of the efforts City of Echmiadzin. Due to the efforts of our committee members, Fresno and Echmiadzin will enjoy a host of new business, trade, travel, cultural arts and educational opportunities.”
The Fresno-Armenia Sister City Committee has met regularly over the past year to establish a sister city with Armenia. The selection of the City of Echmiadzin came after much thought and discussion, “The Fresno-Echmiadzin relationship fits the needs of each city well; both cities present mutually beneficial opportunities in agriculture, education and business exchanges,” stated incoming Chair of the Fresno-Armenia Committee Vahagn Bznouni. Bznouni recently traveled to Echmiadzin as a representative to execute the agreement with Mayor Grigoryan. He acknowledged the 12-member committee: Councilman Borgeas, Anna Borgeas, Nishan Der Kalousdian, Mary Alice Kaloostian, Barlow Der Mugrdechian, Allan Yeghia Jendian, Charles Garabedian, Yeghig Keshishian, Hygo Ohanessian, Sevag Tateosian and Philip Tavlian.
Jendian, the current secretary-treasurer for the committee, and a past vice chair of Tekeyan, stated, “As a member of the diaspora, I am excited to welcome the City of Echmiadzin as a sister city to Fresno — especially given Fresno’s affiliation of being a town which early Armenian immigrants, and noted Fresno born author William Saroyan, fondly reflected upon as their new Fatherland.”
Consul General Grigor Hovhannissian of the Republic of Armenia, who was unable to attend the press conference, congratulated everyone “on this special occasion,” adding that “This new sister city relationship is very important for Armenians, taking into consideration the unique historical and cultural features of the City of Echmiadzin and the fact that Fresno is home to the oldest Armenian-American community in California with a rich spiritual and cultural heritage.”