Kristina Ayanian, Miss Universe Armenia 2022, is stepping into a new platform to advocate for the Armenian cause as the master of ceremonies at the ANCA Eastern Region Annual Awards Program, United for Artsakh, on October 7 at the Royal Sonesta Boston Hotel.
Ayanian’s connection with the ANCA runs deep. Ayanian, a contributor to the Armenian Weekly, covered the ANCA-ER 13th annual banquet for the Weekly in 2019. Her advocacy efforts for the Armenian community have always stemmed from the ANCA, from using their online advocacy tools to attending their events and now, what she calls an “honor and a dream” – presiding over their annual fundraising event. “I’m filled with an immense sense of pride to honor activists and a team who have worked tirelessly, not just over the past three years since the 2020 war in Artsakh, but their entire lives, advocating and making a difference in the Hai Tahd movement,” Ayanian told the Weekly.
The fundraising event comes at a fateful moment in Armenian history. On September 19, after over nine months of a devastating blockade, Azerbaijan launched an assault on Artsakh, causing immense damage to civilian towns and infrastructure and forcing the total surrender of the Artsakh Defense Army. Tens of thousands of Armenians have fled Artsakh ahead of its impending cession to Azerbaijan. The ANCA-ER Endowment Fundraising Committee has since adopted the theme United for Artsakh for the annual awards program.
For Ayanian, the event is an opportunity to gather Armenians, similarly committed to advancing Armenian issues, to have necessary conversations and brainstorm new ways to collaborate. It’s a platform for the ANCA, which she calls the “changemaking bridge” between Armenia, the Diaspora and the United States government, to unify Armenians looking for ways to take action for the homeland to work collectively and effectively. “The event is important now more than ever,” she said.
Ayanian, who speaks with confidence and eloquence, is driven by a firm mission to give back to her homeland. She participated in the 71st Annual Miss Universe Pageant as Miss Universe Armenia in 2022, where she used her international platform to bring awareness to Azerbaijani-Turkish aggression against Armenia and Artsakh. She recognized her title as bearing a role and responsibility not only to represent Armenia, but also to send a political message. “This is a global organization where 95 countries have all eyes on you,” she said. Her Miss Universe National Costume showcased the ancient craft of carpet weaving in Armenia and Artsakh. The front of the costume replicated the traditional Artsakh carpet design called “Arevagorg,” and she carried a sign stating, “Armenia for the right to live.”
Whether it be as Miss Universe Armenia, as an ANCA advocate, or as the co-founder of EyeSupport, which provides humanitarian aid to Armenia and displaced families from Artsakh, Ayanian uses her many endeavors to tell the Armenian story. “Anywhere I go, anyone I meet, my number one talking point is Armenia. Every step I climb, the greater purpose and mission is to elevate the Armenian name and reputation of Armenia globally. I’m not doing it for Kristina. I’m doing it for Armenia,” she said.
Presiding over the ANCA-ER awards program is a full-circle moment for Ayanian. Her former principal Houry Boyamian will be honored at the program with the ANCA-ER’s Excellence in Education Award. “When I found out the news, I couldn’t stop smiling,” Ayanian said. She is grateful for the entire St. Stephen’s community, especially her Armenian teachers Digin Artemis, Digin Anahid, Digin Alik and Digin Lilit and Boyamian’s leadership, for raising her as a “hbard hye.” “Digin Boyamian has played such a big part in my life and Armenian identity,” Ayanian said. “She’s done so much to keep our Armenian heritage within the youth.”
Ayanian recalled how Boyamian would start and end each day with the students at St. Stephen’s Elementary School in Watertown, Massachusetts. She would deliver a speech after the students sang the national anthem at the morning assembly and wait until every student was picked up by their parents after school.
“She deserves all the praise in the world. She really has built our Armenian community for over 35 years. I’m so happy for her. I can’t wait to hug her,” Ayanian said with a smile in her voice.