Reede, 18 Mai 2018 10:52
Anneliis Põldre - Estonian Life No. 20 2018
Jõekääru Laste Suvekodu continues to be a summer staple in the lives of so many Estonian youth. Tales of summers-past are still shared by those of us who have graduated from camper life. Now it’s time to go back with generations of JK Alumni to share in making new memories.
Eestlus. Estonianness. When I think of what it means to me to be Estonian there are several things that come to mind: tradition, language, culture, memories, family, friendships, and community. Seeing that blue-black-white flag waving sends a tremendous sense of patriotism through my veins. So much so that just seeing those three colours in near proximity to each other anywhere makes me proud. Being Estonian took on a whole new meaning for me in 1997: my first summer at Jõekääru. It was a game-changer year in Jõekääru history because it marked the first year an immersion week was offered to children who weren’t fluent in Estonian. As a culturally-blended child from a mixed-marriage, I didn’t grow up speaking Estonian at home and that first immersion week was the only way I could have ever been a camper. It was a pivotal moment in my life because it marked the beginning of a long love affair with this magical place.
Joe-kaa-ru. Those three vowel-heavy syllables hold so much power. Joe. Kaa Ru. There are memories and emotions that exist in the name of the camp alone. It has remained a constant in the history of so many families, like it has in mine. From my grandparents to my father, and from my father to me, it was always Jõekääru. As we grew older, from väiksed to keskmised to suured to kasvatajad, it was always Jõekääru. Today, looking at my friends sending their children to camp, it was always, and will always be Jõekääru. When life got complicated, Jõekääru was simple. Ladies, remember when your biggest worry was who was going to ask you to the big dance? Gentlemen, remember when your biggest fear was whether or not she was going to say yes?
My non-Esto friends could never quite wrap their minds around what I did every summer. They thought that our camp was a cult for tall, blonde, volleyball-playing, folk-dancing Nordics. Exchanging camp stories with my friends was often met with countless questions. No, I'm not related to everyone at my camp. Yes, we have to swim in a pool. No, Kalevipoeg is not our God. And yes, we learn how to shoot rifles. I don't think their confusion will ever go away, but if singing “Kuldne Õhtupäike” in its entirety naked in saun is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
Jõekääru is the place where some of my closest friendships were formed. I can’t imagine my life without these people. We grew up together amidst the joyful chaos of night games, raids, and crayfishing at Kivioja. We’ve laughed together, cried together, bickered with each other and made up. After everything is said and done, there has been no love lost between us, and only love gained. I’m only in my twenties so the verdict is still out on if any of these friends will evolve into “long-lasting friends,” but based on the lifelong friendships formed at JK by the generations before me, it’s safe to say that they will.
My history and love for this camp have eventually led me to this: coordinating and organizing the first ever JK Alumni Laager fundraiser. Helping me with this project are two of my closest Jõekääru friends: Paul Lillakas and Kristina Kald. From Friday, June 8 to Sunday, June 10, 2018, join us in reminiscing and celebrating the times that we have spent at Jõekääru. Activities will include folk-dancing, singing, sports, art, and swimming. Other memorable elements of camp will be included too: raising the flag, campfires, a night game, and a fancy Saturday dinner feast cooked by Paul and Kristina followed by a dance. All proceeds raised from this event will be donated directly back to Jõekääru to help keep the camp running for generations to come. Bring your spouses, partners, and non-Esto friends and walk them across the famous swinging bridge and show them why this place is so special.
Jõekääru has remained an important part of my life. It is the place that helped shape my Estonian identity and continues to make me feel the most in touch with my culture. I couldn’t imagine my life without it, and I hope I never have to.
For more information about JK Alumni Laager, pricing, and registration forms please contact See e-posti aadress on spämmirobotite eest kaitstud. Selle nägemiseks peab su veebilehitsejas olema JavaSkript sisse lülitatud.
or find us on facebook at “JK Alumni Laager”.Anneliis Põldre