PORTLAND, Maine—Author, human rights advocate, and Baku refugee Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte spearheaded a fundraiser to plant a Memorial Forest for in Talin, Armenia, for the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Baku atrocities.
In the 30 years since the last massacres of Armenians in Azerbaijan, all traces of the Armenian community of Azerbaijan and its contributions to the history and culture of the region have been systematically erased by the current ruling regime. The forest will simultaneously memorialize those lost, and survival of a vibrant and talented Armenian community from Azerbaijan.
This initiative is made possible by the support of donors worldwide and the expertise of the Armenia Tree Project, located in both Yerevan and Woburn, Massachusetts (www.armeniatree.org). The forest will serve as a place where individuals can mourn for the lives lost, as well as the bulldozed-over graves of loved ones, and the lost cultural sites of the Armenian community in Azerbaijan.
The initiative and its presence will celebrate the survivors of these heinous crimes who fled, scattering around the world, building successful lives for in all corners of the Diaspora. The Armenia Tree Project is an investment in the health and well-being of Armenia’s next generation.
Over 200 Armenians and non-Armenians worldwide raised $15,000 to plant the Memorial Forest in Talin. The idea, a joint effort between Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte and ATP, came about in the spring of 2018—during the 30th anniversary of Sumgait massacres of Armenians. They have been working on the project for a year.
The Talin Memorial Forest is being planted on 2 hectares of land located on the outskirts of Talin. Of the 2,000 trees 500 are fruit trees, intended to supply fruits to Talin and the surrounding community. The planting site is the location of an old forest planted during Soviet times, and cut down in the 1990’s during the energy blockade crisis created by Turkey and Azerbaijan.
In addition to the forest planting, ATP will also expand its environmental education programs in Talin in 2019 – 2020. ATP’s environmental education team will visit the town for a series of lessons on reducing plastic use and why environmental protections are important locally, nationally, and globally.
ATP and the Talin community have planted the majority of the trees in November and April. Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte will visit Talin on May 7 at 11:00 a.m., when the last 100 trees will be planted. The Memorial Forest, and a Khachkar at the entrance of the forest, will be blessed by the Church.
The community event is open to public and the media. If you require direct telephone contact information, please feel free to send an email.
Biography: Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte is an author, lecturer, lawyer, business woman and a human rights advocate. She is an Armenian refugee from Baku, Azerbaijan. As a result of the 1989 ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Azerbaijan, at the age of 11 Anna and her family fled Baku. They lived in Armenia as refugees for the next 3 years, before relocating to United States in 1992.
Anna received Bachelor of Arts degrees in English & Literature, as well as Philosophy & Religion. She also minored in Russian Language & Literature at the University of North Dakota. She later received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Maine School of Law.
In 2012 Anna published her book, “Nowhere: A Story of Exile,” which she wrote at the age of 14 as her family settled in North Dakota. The book is based on childhood diaries she kept as her family was fleeing Baku, and during their years as refugees in Armenia.
In April 2013, Anna successfully spearheaded the recognition efforts of Nagorno-Karabakh independence at the State of Maine House of Representatives.
In November 2015, she was elected to the Westbrook Maine City Council by a 64% landslide.
In 2017, a Russian translation of Anna’s book was published.
In 2018, Anna was reelected to Westbrook City Council and elected Vice-President of the Council.
Anna is the recipient of Mkhitar Gosh Medal, Republic of Armenia’s highest civilian honor. This was awarded by President Serge Sargsyan, for her exceptional achievements in the socio-political spheres, as well as outstanding efforts in the fields of diplomacy, law, and political science. Anna also received a Gratitude Medal from the President of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Bako Sahakyan. The ANCA-WR awarded her the Vahan Cardashian award for her contributions within the Armenian Diaspora, and the Activism Award for enhancement of human rights, democracy, truth and justice from the ANCA-ER.
Aside from speaking worldwide on genocide prevention, refugee issues, international law and human rights, Anna has a 15 year career in banking law, regulatory compliance and risk management. She is currently a Vice President, and Senior Risk Manager at Androscoggin Bank. Anna lives in Westbrook, Maine with her husband John and two children.