Laupäev, 24 Veebruar 2018 00:00
Eesti Elu Nr. 8 2018
One hundred years ago, copies of the Manifesto To the People of Estonia, declaring the nation's independence, were being bravely posted and distributed throughout Estonia.
Overnight, Estonia declared itself one of the most progressive and liberal nations in all of Europe, embracing values in 1918, that we so closely identify with in Canada today - especially diversity.
As Estonians declared their independence from Russian and German imperialism, our forefathers proclaimed that equal rights and protection for all religious and ethnic groups, including “Russians, Germans, Swedes, Jews, and others residing within the borders of the republic,” would be guaranteed through “the right to their cultural autonomy.”
Despite the treaty that was signed with Russia’s Bolshevik government renouncing in perpetuity all of Russia’s claims to the territory of Estonia, independence and our progressive government would not last.
After signing a pact that would coordinate the star of the Second World War, Soviet and then Nazi forces would crush Estonia’s developing, independent, liberal democracy - repressing cultural and political sovereignty in wave after wave of arrests, deportations and terror.
Nearly 100,000 fled the country in 1944, abandoning homes tearing apart families. Thousands came to Canada, where so many of you here today built new lives.
The stability of life in Canada allowed you to build new organizations, schools, camps and institutions that continue to allow us to maintain our culture, language and heritage in this diverse and progressive new home, Canada.
Just as we’re thankful to this country and our fellow Canadians for allowing us to maintain our Estonian identity and for the opportunities we enjoy, we are also proud of the contributions our community has made to the building of this country.
It is thanks to you and the efforts of our forefathers who came to this country in the 1940’s and 1950’s - that we have the opportunities to send our children to Estonia schools and summer camps. The cultural heritage organizations you founded continue to allow us to participate in cultural heritage activities, like choirs, folkdancing and historical learning. Thanks to you we continue to grow as a community, proud of our culture and our achievements in Candaa.
The strength of our community in lies not in any concrete, steel, glass, bricks or mortar.
Our history, identity, and language, the cultural heritage that we gift to future generations, depends on the sacrifices of volunteers who fill our community halls with Estonian learning and activity. It is through that activity, that we build and strengthen the bonds that connect us as Estonians and Canadians.
It is the mother who sacrifices her Saturday mornings to teach Estonian language to the kids at our nursery school.
It is the uncle, who spends a week of his holiday every summer, helping out at the local Estonian children’s camp.
It is the older brother, who drives the scout troop up to Muskoka for a weekend of outdoor learning.
It is the father, who brings together diverse community members to sing in one voice at weekly choir rehearsals.
And the grandmothers, who collect our ethnocultural history to promote the sense of pride in our heritage here in Canada.
Most importantly, it is you, who have made a commitment to maintaining and learning about their Estonian heritage.
All of you, who are celebrating Estonian independence and our heritage in Canada: you are our strength.
Look around you. Share your pride. Thank everyone around you. Without you, without them, there would be no Estonian heritage or community in Canada.
The physical structures that contain our activities in Toronto and Canada, will wear with time. Some will be renovated, others will be sold. Some will remain, others will be forgotten. But our community will not fade. We will not forget. And we will remain proud of our Estonian identity and heritage for generations to come.
Let us not forget the words of our forefathers, enshrined in the Independence Manifesto for the People of Estonia:
“Sons and daughters of our homeland, unite as one in the sacred task of building our nation! The sweat and blood shed by our ancestors for this country demand this from us; our forthcoming generations oblige us to do this”
Elagu Eesti Vabariik.Elagu Eesti rahvas. Elagu Eesti kogukond Kanadas ja välismaal.