The Baltic American Freedom League (BAFL) awards banquet was held October 18, 2008 at the Latvian Community Center in Los Angeles, California.
Master of Ceremonies, Kestutis Reivydas, opened the proceedings with a brief introduction. It was followed by the invocation led by Fr. Tomas Karanauskas and Maryte Sepikas, BAFL Vice President, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
Alnis Briedis, BAFL Co-President, began his introductory remarks with a moment of silence for Avo Piirisild. Avo was a founder of BAFL and he passed away this summer. Mr. Briedis recognized and congratulated Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on the 90th anniversary of their declaration of independence. He also passed on the goods news that President Bush said the Baltic countries will be added to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program in about a month.
Following the introductory remarks, Dr. Hendrik Leesment, BAFL Director, introduced the honored guests.
Vija Turjanis, BAFL Co-President, and Alnis Briedis presented the Baltic Freedom Award to President Saakashvili of Georgia. Vija said that he was chosen to receive this award because of his resolute commitment to the ideals of freedom and democracy in Georgia. Sergi Nakaidze, Deputy Consul at the Honorary Consulate of Georgia accepted the award on behalf of the President. JoAnne Greinke followed the award presentation by saying a few words about the situation in Georgia since she just returned from the region.
Vija and Alnis also presented the Presidents Award to Nonita Priedite in recognition of her hard work in proofreading the Baltic Bulletin and commitment to the Baltic American Freedom League.
The banquet guest speaker was Dr. Darius Furmonavicius. Dr. Furmonavicius is one of few scholars that had access to the James Baker Collection of historic documents. He discussed two topics: the planned Northern European gas pipeline and the Russian occupation of the Konigsberg/Kaliningrad Region. He reminded the gathering that the Reagan Administration objected to the building of this pipeline in 1982. He shared some war-era maps of the Baltic Sea which show concentrations of mines that present a potential environmental disaster should the pipeline go through. Dr. Furmonavicius presented the history of Kaliningrad that reinforced the issue of Russia’s illegal occupation.
He closed by urging BAFL continue their campaign to stop the construction of the gas pipeline and also demand Russia withdraw from occupied territories.
Entertainment was provided by the Latvian folk dance group, “Perkonitis” (Little Thunder), who thrilled the audience with traditional Latvian folk dances.
In closing Vija Turjanis thanked everybody for making this a huge success. The evening came to a close by the singing of all three National anthems, accompanied on piano by Dr. Laura Miculs.
The banquet was catered by Peggy Taube, who treated the guests to a delicious meal that was highlighted by the main course of glazed chicken fillet and her homemade “parfe” dessert.