Board of Directors,  2020 – 2021

Marju Rink-Abel, President

Tiina Urv, Chair

Vivianne Malmgren

Peteris Blumbergs, Secretary

Ingrida Lusis

Erik Lazdins

Dzintars Dzilna

Saulius Kuprys, Treasurer

Henry Gaidis

Tomas Sadauskas

Managing Director

Karl Altau

With the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC) since 1997, Karl Altau has helped conduct extensive advocacy on behalf of the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian central organizations in the United States. This includes the period of NATO accession for the three Baltic countries and the campaign for Magnitsky sanctions against human rights violators in Russia. He has addressed the Baltic parliaments and the United States Congress on the work of the Baltic-American communities.  

A native Virginian with a degree in journalism from Radford University, Altau has lived and studied in Sweden, Finland, Estonia, and at Indiana University. Altau has served on the boards of the Maryland-Estonia Exchange Council, which helps promote the Maryland Sister States Program and the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation from 2004-2017. He spent three years with the consular section of the Embassy of Estonia in Helsinki, Finland from 1992-1995.

Project Manager

Eduards Ozoliņš

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On October 1st, 2019, Eduards joined the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC), as part of his Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAFF) Scholarship. Previously, he has gained experience in the public sector and media, including work at the State Chancellery of Latvia, where he was involved in various communication campaigns, for instance, promotion of media literacy and whistle-blower protection legislation.

Before moving to Washington, DC, he worked at the European Commission Representation in Latvia, focusing on digital communication. He holds a master’s degree in politics from University of Latvia, with additional study experience in France and Belgium.

Summer 2020 Intern

Madelena Miniats

Originally born and raised in NYC, Madelena Miniats graduated from Bard College in May 2019 with an international relations degree and wrote her undergraduate thesis on Russia’s use of cyber warfare in Estonia, Georgia and Ukraine. Having grown up in the thick of the American-Latvian community, her life has been largely centered around being involved in the community. Two consecutive summers, she interned in Latvia, at Transparency International – Delna and as an assistant to journalist Ansis Bogustovs. Looking back this trajectory somehow led her to JBANC. After participating in JBANC’s Baltic Advocacy Day this past November, she realized that she wanted to continue to be involved in Baltic advocacy. She’s excited to start this new chapter having just moved to DC and work at JBANC!

Spring 2020 Intern

Priit Grabbi

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In January of 2020, Priit Grabbi joined the JBANC team in conjunction with a requirement for his Masters Degree studies. He is currently completing his M.A. in International Relations at Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia. Priit previously received his B.A. in the same field at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. There he rowed in college, winning a national championship, and continues to row in Washington, DC with the Potomac Boat Club. 
 
Priit is a local DC-area Estonian American, whose family has long been involved in the Estonian community. Priit’s great grandfather, Herbert Grabbi, was the military Adjutant to President Konstantin Päts before the Second World War, and grandfather, Hellar Grabbi, was a renowned writer and journalist.

Former JBANC Interns

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Natalie Schaller

Natalie is originally from Kansas City, Missouri. Two years ago, she packed her bags and headed to Montreal, QC, Canada to study Political Science and World Islamic & Middle East Studies at McGill University. When’s she’s not buried under stacks of books in one of McGill’s many libraries, Natalie is also an avid participant in Model United Nations and is involved in leadership for her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. After her time at McGill, she plans to attend graduate school in either Peacebuilding or a Conflict Resolution program and hopes to pursue a career in Foreign Service.

This summer, Natalie wanted to explore some different interests and get involved with the Baltic-American Community, which led her to join the JBANC Summer Team. While her family is very  involved with the Lithuanian-American Community, Natalie wanted to learn about how her heritage relates to a larger Baltic cause. Natalie says getting to investigate and advocate for Baltic issues right in the center of the nation’s capital has been a  true honor and privilege. 

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Annija Streile

Annija Streile is from Piņķi, Latvia. Annija recently graduated from University of Latvia, where she studied International Economics and Commercial Diplomacy. Upon returning to Latvia this fall, Annija plans to resume her studies and begin her working towards her Master’s degree. Before she embarks on that new journey, however, Annija has joined the JBANC Summer Team right here in Washington, DC! She is taking part in The Fund for American Studies summer program as stipendiary of the George Viksnins Scholarship Fund. While working to advance the interests of the Baltic American councils at JBANC, Annija is also studying International Affairs at George Mason University.

When Annija is not busy studying or advocating on behalf of JBANC at the Hill, one of her favorite things to do is travel. Annija has traveled to several countries in Europe and Africa; she has also lived and studied in Bilbao, Spain for a brief period of time. Annija told the JBANC Team that this experience was one of the best of her life, because she was able to meet new people and learn Spanish while studying a subject she was passionate about. Although this is her first time in the United States, Annija admits that she’s fallen in love with the District. Everything from the monuments, to the beautiful gardens, to the architectural masterpieces amaze her and make her excited to be here for the Summer. She’s already looking forward to coming back someday!

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Kristine Maurina

Kristine Maurina is from Riga, Latvia. She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Riga Technical University in Latvia and the University of Huelva, Spain. During the 2018-2019 academic year Kristine studied at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC), as a recipient of the Dr. Aina Galējs scholarship and was voted CFO for Baltic Student Organization in Eau Claire. During her business studies in UWEC, she and her team took part in the startup competition StartUp48 with an agricultural drone project, in which they also got into the state final in Milwaukee. Kristine is currently continuing to work on the idea with her team.

In Latvia, Kristine has banking and finance experience from working for the second largest Swedish bank Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (SEB) as Operations Specialist and later on in a Compliance Officer role. Kristine arrived at the end of May to intern with the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC).

Kristine Maurina is from Riga, Latvia. She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Riga Technical University in Latvia and the University of Huelva, Spain. During the 2018-2019 academic year Kristine studied at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UWEC), as a recipient of the Dr. Aina Galējs scholarship and was voted CFO for Baltic Student Organization in Eau Claire. During her business studies in UWEC, she and her team took part in the startup competition StartUp48 with an agricultural drone project, in which they also got into the state final in Milwaukee. Kristine is currently continuing to work on the idea with her team.

In Latvia, Kristine has banking and finance experience from working for the second largest Swedish bank Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken AB (SEB) as Operations Specialist and later on in a Compliance Officer role. Kristine arrived at the end of May to intern with the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC).

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Yeoun Choi

JBANC was  very happy to host our 2018-2019 professional intern, Yeoun Choi. She hails from Seoul, South Korea, and was in the United States via sponsorship of the Korea West program and Cultural Vistas. Yeoun completed her bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Journalism at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. She participated in an exchange program and lived in Iran for a year and is interested in foreign affairs and sanctions policies. In between, Yeoun has traveled extensively in Europe, including many countries in Central Europe. She looks forward to becoming an international relations expert through her experience in the U.S., which has included event-planning, management of social networks, and active participation in events and meetings as part of the JBANC team. We were very excited to have her on the team!

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Sven Wichman

Sven Heiti Wichman is a former spring intern at JBANC. He graduated from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada with a degree in Animal Biology. After graduation, he decided to volunteer his service to Estonia’s Kuperjanov Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade, based in Võru, Estonia. His year abroad allowed him to connect with his Estonian heritage, all while gaining experience in military training and camaraderie. This experience translated well during his time at JBANC, as fortuitously the National Guard in his home state of Michigan has a military partnership with Latvia, and his current state of Maryland has ties with the Estonian Defense League (Lithuania is partnered with Pennsylvania). The final exercise of his year of service in Estonia, called “Kevadtorm” (Spring Storm), featured many NATO allies including members of the Maryland National Guard. Sven reports that he enjoyed his new work with JBANC and was happy to explore the beauty that Washington, DC has to offer.