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Florida Premier of ‘Earthquake’ to Take Place in Miami on March 2

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MIAMI, FL – The Florida premier of ‘Earthquake,’ a drama set in Soviet Armenia about the tragic 1988 earthquake in Gyumri (Leninakan), Armenia will take place at the O Cinema in Miami Beach, Florida on Thursday, March 2, 2017 at 7:00pm. This will be the first and only screening of the film in Florida.

Based on a true story, ‘Earthquake’ is a dramatized recreation of one of the Soviet Union’s most devastating natural disasters — a massive 7.0 earthquake that struck northern Armenia in December 1988 — produced by Mars Media in Russia and directed by Sarik Andreasyan. ‘Earthquake’ tells the story of the massive quake that struck Armenia’s second largest city, destroyed more than 300 communities, and killed about 30,000 people.

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Focused around the story of two young men, Andrey Berezhnov and Robert Melkonyan, whose fates were already intertwined by an earlier tragedy — a car crash caused by Andrey that killed Robert’s parents — the film brings them together in the same rescue squad of Gyumri (formerly Leninakan) as they struggle to cope with a disaster that eclipses their own personal stories.

Directed by Sarik Andreasyan, the film is in Russian with English subtitles. It was selected by Armenia as an entry for the 89th Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

Tickets are $18 (non-refundable and can not be exchanged) and available for purchase online here. The film is only for viewers 16 years+, and not recommended for pregnant women and people suffering from heart disease

You can RSVP on Facebook and connect with other attendees here. For background information on the Gyumri earthquake, watch the ABC News coverage from 1988 below.

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Jets’ Bogosian Embraces Heritage

By Wayne Fish, Columnist
New York Hockey Journal

To be the best, you might as well learn from the best.

Winnipeg Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian subscribes to that theory, because one of his first coaches was one of the best to ever play the back line.

That would be Ray Bourque, the two-decade Hall of Famer who’s usually mentioned in the same sentence with the legendary Bobby Orr at Boston’s hockey watering holes.

Bogosian, a native of Massena, N.Y., hard by the St. Lawrence River, attended Cushing Academy in Massachusetts starting at the age of 14. Bourque’s sons, Chris and Ryan, also attended Cushing, so Ray came on board as an assistant coach.

He knew early on he had stumbled on to something really good.

Winnipeg's Zach Bogosian, 22, is the first player of Armenian heritage to play in the NHL. (Getty Images)

Winnipeg’s Zach Bogosian, 22, is the first player of Armenian heritage to play in the NHL. (Getty Images)

“Any time you’re around a Hall of Famer like that, he’s a real special person, on and off the ice,’’ Bogosian said after a Jets-Flyers game last month. He’d net his first goal of the season the next day in New Jersey. “He brought joy to the practices, always smiling — he would give us little tips, like coming into the zone late, getting point shots through. … He didn’t try to put too much on 10th-graders, but just his presence was the biggest thing.’’

Aside from his notoriety as one of Winnipeg’s prized home-grown products (drafted third in 2008 behind only Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty), the 22-year-old Bogosian is perhaps best known for being the first player of Armenian heritage to play in the National Hockey League.

Although Armenia is a mountainous country (a former republic in the defunct Soviet Union) and endures long, cold winters, the sport of hockey has been slow to develop there. It took an American-born player like Bogosian to break the barrier, so to speak.

Zach’s great-grandfather, Stephen, escaped Armenia in the early 1920s to get away from the genocide perpetrated on his countrymen. Some 1 million Armenians reportedly lost their lives during this holocaust.

The Bogosian family wound up in upstate New York, and Zach, a natural athlete at a young age, had a decision to make early on. He could follow his dad into American football (Ike was co-captain of the 1980-81 Syracuse University teams that featured future New York Giants running back and Super Bowl champ Joe Morris) or pursue a career in hockey.

Hockey won and Zach never looked back. And he’s proud of the fact that he’s a bit of a pioneer.

“Yeah, growing up with an Armenian heritage … you know, my grandparents are still pretty hardcore about it,’’ he said. “My great-grandfather came across when the genocide started.

“It’s just a hard-working family from a small town. I mean, if I can do it, anyone can do it. As far as being the first Armenian, obviously I’m very proud of it. But it’s not just on me; it’s on my parents and everyone who helped me throughout my whole career.

“It’s kind of fun to have that (first Armenian) next to your name.’’

As for not following his dad and older brother (Aaron, now playing for the Florida Everblades of the ECHL) into American collegiate sports, the Bogosians have cable TV to thank for that.

Zach grew up watching the Ottawa 67s junior team and that convinced him to eventually play youth hockey north of the border, joining the Peterborough Petes after graduating from Cushing Academy.

Massena is a town of about 12,000 in St. Lawrence County, which also includes former NHLer Mike Hurlbut (N.Y. Rangers, Quebec Nordiques, Buffalo Sabres) among its native sons.

“I played a few tournaments with Nick Palmieri (Utica, N.Y.) for the Syracuse Stars, but Massena is pretty secluded,’’ said Bogosian. “I was never really around anyone (of high hockey caliber) growing up. When I go home, it’s just me and my brother skating together.

“It’s a unique little town; I enjoy going back there in the summertime. I’m just proud to be from there.’’

Like a number of players in the organization, there were some mixed feelings about leaving Atlanta for Winnipeg a couple years ago. On one hand, the Thrashers were moving to a more hockey-crazed environment. On the other, a lot of local ties to Atlanta — from friends to schools to favorite restaurants — had to be broken.

“I’m from upstate New York, so the climate is not too much different,’’ said Bogosian. “(Winnipeg) is a great hockey town and we have great support. Obviously, it’s never easy moving from city to city. But the city welcomed us with open arms. It’s been a great experience so far.’’

The Jets believe they’re on the right track toward contention, with young stars like Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane and, of course, Bogosian, forming a strong nucleus. The team stood 8-9-1 in late February.

“We’ve been together for a few years,’’ he said. “We’ve been through the Atlanta phase and now we’re going through the Winnipeg phase.

“Our core group might seem young, but we have a good mix of veteran guys, too. Any time you’re one of the young guys on a young team, it’s always fun, bringing that energy to the room and learning from the older guys.’’

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of New York Hockey Journal and is reprinted with the permission of the author.

Petition Launched on White House Website Calling on Government of Turkey to Open Border with Armenia for Syrian Refugees

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor

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Over the course of the last week, an Internet petition launched on the White House website has stirred emotions and reignited the debate surrounding Turkey’s nearly 20-year blockade of Armenia. In September 2011, the Obama administration launched “We the People” an online platform whereby American citizens can petition their government, a right enshrined in the First Amendment of US Constitution. According to the terms, a petition must reach 25,000 signatures within 30 days of its launch in order for it to receive a response from the administration. On January 15, the White House raised the signature threshold to 100,000 signatures. However, the new requirement applies only to new petitions and does not affect this petition.

[Click here to read the petition.]

The petition says that “There are 200,000 ethnic Armenians living in Syria and most of them want to escape to Armenia where they can feel safe, comfortable, find a job, a place to live and go to schools” and that the “road from Syria to Armenia goes through Turkey which closed its border with Armenia in 1993.” It concludes, “There shouldn’t be closed borders in the 21-st century.”

The petition was launched on January 5 and, as of this writing, has garnered over 500 signatures, five of which hail from Florida. The petition was initiated by Heritage Party activist Daniel Ioannisian in Armenia, ArmeniaNow first reported. There is no stipulation that the petition organizer be a US citizen, according to the Terms of Participation of the “We the People” platform.

Last year, Florida Armenians held events in Boca Raton and Hollywood, raising thousands of dollars to assist in the Syrian-Armenian relief effort.

According to the ArmeniaNow report, Petros Gasparian, who fled to Armenia amid intense fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo, welcomes the initiative. He says that many want to drive to Armenia, but avoid the long travel through Georgia, which is also complicated by the need to get an extra visa and other difficulties.

“The road is very long and unfamiliar, while it’s only half a day’s drive from Aleppo to Yerevan [it takes about 35 hours to reach Armenia from Aleppo by way of Georgia]. That would be easy to all of us, but I’m not sure Turkey would display such an attitude,” Gasparian told ArmeniaNow.

Syria’s largest city, Aleppo is home to 80,000 ethnic Armenians, most descendants of survivors of the 1915 Turkish genocide of Christian Armenians. Today, thousands of Armenians have fled Syria, many seeking refuge in Armenia. According to immigration officials in Yerevan over 6,000 Syrian-Armenians have applied for citizenship in Armenia.

As Turkey’s failed policy to blockade Christian Armenia enters its second decade, the remnants of the Soviet Union continue to linger in the South Caucasus as the last iron curtain hangs over this remote but volatile region. Support for Armenian-Turkish rapprochement reached an all time high in 2009 when Armenia and Turkey signed Protocols to establish diplomatic relations. However, the accords stalled in the Turkish parliament and still await ratification.

Others hope, however, that modern-day Turkey can play a leadership role in the region and in the Syrian conflict in particular. Perhaps in all of the turmoil in the Middle East the Turkish government can display such leadership and open the border with Armenia, at least for refugees. Although a relatively small step in this context, it has the potential to move the ball forward in a larger one: Armenian-Turkish relations. When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Armenia in July 2010, she was asked about the state of Armenian-Turkish relations and the next step in the process. She replied, “The ball is in the other [Turkey’s] court.”

Taniel Koushakjian is an independent political commentator for Florida Armenians. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, and is currently enrolled at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @Taniel_Shant. 

*This story was updated on January 16, 2013.