For the Põldma and Lillakas families, the decision was unanimous.
“This is a team effort from our family,” said family spokesperson Paul Lillakas of Toronto. “We represent the second and third generation of Estonians and are fully committed to helping our culture thrive. It’s up to us to carry this forward.”
“We are honouring our grandparents, who were such a positive influence on us, and who did so much for the Estonian community.”
The Lillakas and Põldma families – children and grandchildren of Meinhard and Selma Põldma – have pooled personal resources to make a Viru Vanemad family legacy donation to the new International Estonian Centre (IEC).
“We live in six different cities in Canada, and every single one of us, including our spouses, was on board with the decision,” Paul explained. “We feel that by coming together as a family, and each one of us giving to the best of our ability, we can help build this new centre and the future of our community.”
“The non-Estonians in our family are consistently blown away with the strength of our community,” Paul said. “They are just as committed to and excited about this project as the Estonians. We are all in this together.”
Meinhard and Selma were deeply involved in building up the Estonian community in Toronto, like so many hardworking and energetic members of their generation who came to Canada from Estonia.
“Vanaema and Vanaisa instilled in us a very deep sense of ‘eestlus’, and what it means to be Estonian,” Paul said. “They were incredible - involved in choirs, church life, guides, scouts and summer camps – all the organizations that built our community here.”
“Nothing made them happier than to see us involved in the Estonian community,” he remembers. “They were so supportive and interested in everything we were doing.”
Paul, who is a Toronto-based professional chef well known and regarded for his work with the media industry, says there are many “delicious opportunities” for the IEC to develop new cultural connections.
Paul said that Toronto’s vibrant multicultural food scene, and its appetite for learning about new and different types of cuisine is flourishing. He feels there would be tremendous interest in Estonian food culture here.
The family also believes that the new centre will foster the growth of existing and new Estonian cultural events. Having one central location to hold events and festivals is much better than having them spread out across the city at different venues as is the case now.
“It is so exciting to think of having a new, fresh and modern centre to come to and bring our family and friends,” he said. “It will help accelerate our culture, give us a chance to meet and connect with new Estonians and build attendance for the events that people work so hard to organize.”
“I speak for the whole family when I say we are very excited about the future,” Paul said. “I know my grandparents are smiling down at us.”
Get involved and help support our future
The International Estonian Centre’s capital campaign donor categories are Kalevipoja Laud for gifts over $100,000 (including naming rights for specific areas), Viru Vanemad for gifts over $10,000, and Kungla Rahvas for gifts up to $10,000. The Kungla Rahvas campaign will launch in early 2020.
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DIGITAL Estonian Life No. 26 - June 30, 2022