Participants at the CYSCA anniversary program. (David Medzorian photo)

CYSCA Marks 35 Years of Friendship between Cambridge and Yerevan

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Light from a late summer full moon shone on Cambridge City Hall where Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui invited the public to the Sullivan Chamber on September 8 to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Cambridge-Yerevan Sister City Association (CYSCA).

Mayor Frank Duehay with the CYSCA delegation in 1986 (Ken Martin photo)

In 1985, Armenia was still part of the Soviet Union, when the Cambridge City Council and the Cambridge Peace Commission founded the CYSCA, as a partnership between the citizens of Cambridge and Yerevan. They wanted to foster friendship, mutual trust and dynamic interaction between the peoples of the two countries and their neighboring regions. The primary idea was to counter misinformation and images of the Soviet Union and its people as an “Evil Empire,” the now-infamous description of the USSR by President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

In 1986, a delegation from Cambridge traveled to the Soviet Republic of Armenia with former mayor and then City Councilor Frank Duehay to present a formal proposal to Mayor Eduard Avakian of Yerevan for the two cities to become Sister Cities. A year later the Yerevan mayor and an Armenian delegation traveled to Cambridge to formalize the agreement. Since the end of the USSR the Cambridge – Yerevan connection has remained strong with scientific, educational, and art and youth exchanges.

Brian Corr Cambridge Peace Commissioner (Ken Martin photo)

Brian Corr, executive director of the Cambridge Peace Commission, was the master of ceremonies for the 35th Anniversary event. He introduced Sevan Dulgarian, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Commonwealth Honors College to sing the Star Spangled Banner and Alla Petrosyan from the Boston Children’s Chorus to sing Mer Hairenik (Our Fatherland), the Armenian National Anthem, and later the song Erebuni (the name of ancient Yerevan). Corr wants to discuss future projects.

Siddiqui welcomed the evenings participants and congratulated the CYSCA on 35 years as one of the most amazing partnerships.

Patty Nolan, former school committee member and current City Councilor, who married into an Armenian family, spoke briefly about Armenian history and culture, hosting visitors from Armenia, why CYSCA is so relevant because the organization make connections, celebrates community, and keeps connections of the years between Cambridge and Yerevan.

CYSCA President Roxanne Etmekjian presents a certificate of appreciation to member Nancy Kalajian (David Medzorian photo)

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Ellen Mass, a former member of the CYSCA Board of Directors and one of the founders thought it strange to be present after all this time. The Cold War had ended during Mayor Avakian’s time and together they hoped to help international relations. Ellen mentioned former City Councilor Attorney David Wylie who work with diplomatic work and was in attendance.

Mass said that Mayor Francis Duehay did great things and that CYSCA succeeded in making peace not war, temporarily though. Nonetheless cultural exchanges took place proving that people-to-people diplomacy is the only way to go to foster greater understanding between peoples. Ellen said she felt right and thankful for sharing some of her lifetime with Armenians working towards peace.

City Councilor Patty Nolan and Eva Medzorian (David Medzorian photo)

Ivan Bath, another founder, spoke about the first delegation from Cambridge in 1986 and from Yerevan in 1987. He remembered Mayor Avakian visiting Cambridge Schools and the agreement for biannual festivals including an event at the Longy School in Cambridge and how not long after the was a treaty between the U.S. and the USSR, to reduce nuclear weapons. He feels that everyone needs to re-commit to peace and the peace movement.

Former Peace Corp and CYSCA member Jennifer Bonislawski spoke about her time spent in the Martuni area working with children.

A member of the first Armenian delegation to Cambridge, Ester Demirtshyan, Director of the City of Smile child cancer organization in Yerevan spoke about her early experience in Cambridge via a video recording.

Alla Petrosyan, Boston Children’s chorus member (David Medzorian photo)

A musical interlude followed violinist Emilya Gasparyan who performed Caprice no. 24 by Niccolo Paganini.

Longtime member and founder Eva Medzorian in her comments mentioned that so much was lost because her husband, Jack, a great supporter of CYSCA, had died not long ago, and that she knew he was at the meeting in spirit, observing.

Closing remarks were offered by Roxanne Etmekjian, president of CYSCA, who thanked Mayor Siddiqui and the Peace Commissioner as well as everyone who made the 35th Anniversary of CYSCA possible.

 

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