Friday, 30 January 2015 15:22
Karin Ivand - Estonian Life No. 04 2015
In the 29 August issue of Toronto's weekly Estonian newspaper, Eesti Elu, Mihkel also said that coming to MÜ was almost a religious experience for him and one he did not expect to have on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. He said he regained an even stronger sense of national pride being with us, and was extremely grateful for this incredible journey into his own soul.
Mihkel, who is the son of writers Eno Raud and Aino Pervik, is an accomplished journalist, author and television personality. He is now turning his energies to politics and is running in the next Estonian election as a social democrat.
Armas Maiste, musician. Armas Maiste is 85 years old and has not lost one iota of his charisma as a performer. A jazz and classical pianist, Armas had us enthralled for an hour and a half with his witty talk about what piano playing and flying have in common.
To him, a piano and a flight simulator are equally fascinating and studying both keeps his obviously nimble brain active. A conductor is like an air traffic controller, he said. An extremely good memory and discipline is needed for both pursuits.
He told us how, during the German occupation of Estonia, when he was just 12 years old, he was invited onto a plane by a German solider to look at the cockpit. The dials, gauges and control panel had him hooked at once. Thus began a lifelong fascination with the world of aviation.
Armas went on to have a stellar career as a pianist. He played for both the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Les Grand Ballets Canadiens. He told me later he loved playing for the ballet company in particular because of their varied and interesting programming and music.
I also asked him how he got to be so funny. He said he played in comedy clubs in Montreal for 28 years and learned his comic delivery and timing from the comedians who performed there. Armas means "beloved". The name fits this exceptional man perfectly.
Elin Toona, author. Elin Toona left Estonia in a crowded fishing boat with her mother and grandmother in 1944 to escape advancing Soviet tanks. She was seven years old. She said her last vision of the country where she was born was of a sandy shore strewn with suitcases. A black cat sat on a cabinet that had been left on the beach, licking its paw. It reminded her of the pet they had to leave behind. "Our cat Tondu didn't say goodbye," she said. "He knew we weren't coming back."
Elin's life would take many twists and turns after she got off that boat in Germany. Her Estonian all but disappeared as she made a life for herself there, then in England and the United States. As an 11 year-old child in England, the state put her in an orphanage because the space they had at home was deemed inadequate. She wasn't allowed to see her family for nine months and, after that, only on Sundays.
At the age of 15, she had to work in a textile factory in Yorkshire – refugees were denied higher education – where her day began at 4.30 am. When she was older, she moved to London and started her writing career in English, all the while struggling to understand her past and find her identity in a class-conscious, post-war society.
Despite almost losing her ability to speak and write in Estonian, Elin regained her mother tongue and went on to write seven books in Estonian. She recently published an English book titled "Into Exile: A Life Story of War and Peace".
Her writing and story-telling style is clear and utterly compelling. "I am the same Estonian who left my country at age seven," she said.
Hands down one of my favourite activities during the week is the night-time visit to the "hiis", or holy grove on the Kotkajarve grounds. Led by grove elder Margus Tae, this is a spiritual tradition that takes place at every MÜ.
(to be continued)
Karin Ivand, Estonian World, Life, December 2014