As 2021 draws to a close, we reflect on a remarkable year filled with community-building, progress, challenges and excitement. Despite construction-related hurdles posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, spirits are strong and momentum continues to build for the KESKUS project.
Over the past 12 months, KESKUS has achieved much, startiing with developing its KESKUS International Estonian Centre name, through to gaining new board members, fundraising campaign ambassadors, hundreds of new donors from around the world, and hundreds of new followers on social media and subscribers to the monthly newsletter.
Culmination of life’s work for this intrepid couple is investing in the future of the Estonian community
If you ask Tiina and Agu Ets what their life’s work has been, the answer is simple: to cherish and support the Estonian community.
Agu and Tiina have furthered their strong commitment by becoming Viru Vanem donors to the KESKUS International Estonian Centre, currently in development in downtown Toronto. Designed by award-winning architect Alar Kongats, this spectacular modern building will be a vibrant global hub for all Estonians.
“This centre is a new start, and a rejuvenation of the community,” Agu said. “It will be a world class facility of which we can all be proud.”
Teistkordne Viru Vanem annetus, et aidata eestlastel oma pärandit hoida ja jagada
Selleks ajaks, kui Merike Kalm oli 12-aastane ning äsja Eestist Soome ja Rootsi kaudu Kanadasse jõudnud, oli ta oma elu jooksul kogenud enamat kui suurem osa inimestest terve elu jooksul.
Merike on Viru Vanem tasemel annetaja Toronto kesklinnas arendusjärgus oleva International Estonian Centre KESKUS heaks. Annetus on tehtud perekondade Himel, Kalm ja Roos nimel.
See on Merikese teine Viru Vanem annetus; esimese tegi ta oma tädi Eva Kalmu mälestuseks.
Eesti kogukonna tulevikul pole piire õhus ega vees
Mereväe lenduri ja õhuruumieksperdina on KESKUSe annetaja Margus Aruja elust suur osa olnud seotud lennundustegevustega.
Kuid on veel üks Marguse jaoks väga oluline teema, mis tema arvates ei saa pikemalt õhku hõljuma jääda ja see on vajadus KESKUS International Estonian Centre’i järele.
Ottawas elav „Viru Vanem“ tasemel annetaja Margus selgitab, miks ta otsustas toetada uut KESKUSt Torontos:
,,KESKUSe ehitamine loob raamistiku eestlusele – eestlasi on igas maailma nurgas ja see aitab koos hoida meie diasporaad,“ sõnas ta. ,,Kui pandeemia on meile midagi õpetanud, siis seda, et füüsiline ruum meie elus on väga oluline ja samuti vajadus üksteisega kokku saada.“
Second Viru Vanem donation to help Estonians connect and reflect on their heritage
By the time Merike Kalm was 12 years old and a newly arrived immigrant to Canada from Estonia by way of Finland and Sweden, she had already experienced more than most will in a lifetime.
Merike is a Viru Vanem level donor to KESKUS International Estonian Centre under development now in downtown Toronto. The donation is in honour of the Himel, Kalm and Roos families.
This is Merike’s second Viru Vanem donation; she made the first in memory of her aunt, Eva Kalm.
Journey from Estonia
Merike’s precarious journey began in 1943. At the age four, she, along with her parents Georg and Maimo Kalm and two year-old brother Mihkel, escaped the invading Soviet troops from her home town of Tallinn by fishing boat.
“There were 100 souls on that boat, with the women and children in the hold below,” she recalls.
The family’s first stop was at a displaced persons’ (DP) camp in Helsinki. Afterwards, they settled into a rented farmhouse in the countryside while Georg served in the Finnish army.
Their next move was to Sweden, and yet another DP camp. A fortunate circumstance enabled them to obtain permission to purchase land and build a home, not usually granted to immigrants at that time. This was due to Georg’s father’s link to Russian nobility; he served in the Russian army in 1904 (Estonia was under Russian rule at the time) and rose to become an aide to Czar Nicholas.
Georg built the family’s home in Roslags Näsby, a municipality north of Stockholm, an accomplishment he would repeat when they emigrated to Canada – their next, and final, move.
Early days in Canada
The family arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax in 1950, the gateway to Canada through which a total of 1.5 million immigrants passed between 1928 and 1971 in their search for a safe and permanent home.
Shortly after their arrival, Merike entered school.
“I didn’t know any English, so I was put into Grade One, but I progressed through the grades quickly.”
Georg in his industrious fashion, built the family a home in Mississauga, where they settled into a more permanent life. Merike by this time had lived in four countries and six different “homes.”
Move to KESKUS nurtures strong future
It is this early displacement that fuels Merike’s desire to help the Estonian community nurture a strong future. That, and her late husband Jaan Roos’ dedication to supporting the transition from the former Estonian House to the new KESKUS.
“My motivation is how much my husband Jaan believed in KESKUS,” Merike said. “He knew the old Estonian house on Broadview had outlived its capability to serve the community. KESKUS has a whole new energy.”
Merike didn’t have a lot of connection to the Estonian community while growing up. “I knew I was Estonian, but it wasn’t until I met Jaan that I really became a part of the community. It has added such a positive dimension to my life.”
Her family is firmly behind the decision to support KESKUS.
“My children are keenly interested in their Estonian heritage,” she said. “This new centre will give all people with Estonian roots the opportunity to connect and learn about where they come from.”
Merike and her first husband Dr. Calvin Himel have four children: Jeffrey, Susan, David and Leigh.
She has three step-children with her late husband Dr. Jaan Olav Roos: Jamie, Martin and Richard. Jaan, who was a shareholder in the Toronto Estonian House, a member of the Estonian Students’ Society (Eesti Üliõpilaste Selts) and the Estonian Folk Music Ensemble (Eesti Rahvapillide Orkester), died August, 2021.
Jaan was a respirology specialist whose passion was competitive sports including running, cross-country skiing and race-walking. He and Merike shared a love of race-walking and met at the Central YMCA in Toronto while practicing their sport.
Connection to Estonia continues
Merike plans to take an extended trip to Estonia with her children and grandchildren next summer. This is not her first trip. One of her most interesting trips was in 1993 when she worked in President Lennart Meri’s office as an administrative consultant as part of the Canadian Executive Service Organization.
“It was a very interesting time to work there and contribute to Estonia’s evolution,” she recalls. “There were constant changes as they set up new systems and practices.”
Her goal in visiting now is more personal: “I want to say goodbye to my family members,” she said.
For Merike, the journey to life in Canada was often tumultuous but her “eestlus” has remained intact. With this donation, Merike hopes to help other Estonians connect with their heritage.
“As an immigrant, you always know you are the ‘other,’” she said. “KESKUS will help every Estonian discover and celebrate their rich heritage and reflect on what the idea of ‘other’ means for them.”
Get involved and help support our future
Are you interested in helping build this spectacular new home for the global Estonian community? Please join our growing list of capital campaign donors! The International Estonian Centre’s 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. Stay tuned for the launch of the Kungla Rahvas campaign in 2021.
Donations may be made as a family gift, or in honour of an individual or family. All Canadian and U.S. donations will be issued a tax receipt.
Let's stay connected...
With stock markets record-high and the end of the calendar year quickly approaching, there has never been a better time to support KESKUS and to save on taxes!
Even if you have already donated, it’s the perfect opportunity to increase your KESKUS support. By donating before the end of the year, you will receive a 2021 tax receipt, and the tax savings can be even more significant when you donate shares!
The sky’s the limit for shaping the future of the Estonian community
As a naval aviator and aerospace expert, Margus Aruja has spent much of his life on pursuits that involve flying, but there is one thing that is not up in the air as far as he’s concerned, and that is the need for KESKUS International Estonian Centre.
A Viru Vanem campaign donor, Margus, who lives in Ottawa, explained his decision to support the development of the new centre in Toronto.
“Having KESKUS establishes a framework – there are Estonians in every corner of the world and it will help keep our global diaspora together,” he said. “If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it’s that physical space is very important in our lives and so is the need to get together.”
From youngest Estonian House shareholder to Viru Vanem donor
When Arthur Heinmaa was just 18 months old, his parents Atmar and Edda wanted to ensure he would be inextricably linked to the community by securing shares in his name to the Estonian House in Toronto. He has remained a dedicated shareholder ever since.
Now, many decades later, Arthur and his wife Mary have secured their childrens’ future to the community by becoming Viru Vanemad donors to the KESKUS International Estonian Centre. KESKUS is the dynamic new hub for the Estonian community that is under construction in downtown Toronto.
From New Mexico to KESKUS with love and gratitude
Despite living almost 3,000 kilometres away from KESKUS, for Ingrid Roosild and her daughter Kaili, “eestlus” or being Estonian, is as natural as the deep, green beauty of a primeval Baltic forest.
Ingrid and Kaili,13, live in Albuquerque, New Mexico, far indeed from an Estonian community, but this does not deter them from embracing and supporting their heritage.
And this is why Ingrid has stepped forward as a Viru Vanem donor to KESKUS International Estonian Centre, being developed now in downtown Toronto as a dynamic global hub that will welcome all Estonians.
Altosaarte Eestist põgenemise lugu sai alguse 1944.aastal. Tallinna pommitamise ajal põgenesid Ats ja Ella Altosaar koos pisipoja Tõnuga inimesi täistuubitud laeval üle mere Rootsi. Sel keerulisel momendil ei osanud nad hetkekski aimata, et nende eestluse vaim saab aastaid hiljem ühel päeval edasi elama, toetades Eesti kogukonna helget tulevikku Kanada KESKUSes.
Kõresaarte Eestist põgenemise lugu sai alguse samuti 1944. aastal, kuid neil oli suund Saksamaale. Mõned kuud hiljem Geislingenis, Viktor Kõresaar otsis põgenikelaagrist, kuhu Eestist oli Nõukogude Liidu sissetungi tõttu põgenenud tuhandeid eestlasi, meeleheitlikult taga oma armastatud neiut Maimut. Saatus oli nende poolt, nad kohtusid ja abiellusid kohe sealsamas Geislingeni laagris. Mõni aasta hiljem sündis Kõresaartele pisitütar Anne.
DIGITAL Estonian Life No. 20 - May 20, 2022