As the COVID-19 situation in Toronto has not brought us back any of our old freedoms, VEMU has continued to organize events online. During the first two months of the year, we have had many exciting events.
The season began on January 13th, with the workshop “Baking with Ene: Healthy Rye Bread”, where Ene Timmusk taught us how to bake traditional Estonian bread in her home kitchen while sharing specific tips for achieving the best results.
On January 21st, Gabriel Doherty (University College Cork) gave a ecture on the topic “Escape by Victory: Ireland and Refugees, 1949-51”, where he unveiled the dramatic story of the disrupted journey of Baltic refugees on their way from Sweden to Canada. The presentation, based on thorough archival research, brought together a hundred viewers from various Estonian communities abroad, many of whom had personal memories of this historic episode. One person who travelled aboard Victory, now a Toronto resident, Mall Puhm, helped to organize the lecture. The discussion was moderated by Andres Kasekamp, Chair of Estonian Studies at the University of Toronto.
On February 3rd, Peeter Põldre, who participated in the 2019 Estonian Jubilee Song Festival in Tallinn as a photographer, shared with us his impressions of and photos taken at this memorable event. His stories and recollections allowed the audience to look at this great event from a slightly different perspective. For those accustomed to the limitations of COVID-19, it seemed strange to see such huge crowds of people together, as the main concert of the Song Festival brought together more than 100,000 people. At the end of the lecture, many listeners must have wondered when we can gather like this again.
On February 16th, we listened to a lecture on school lore by Piret Voolaid, a senior researcher at the Estonian Literary Museum. Piret introduced the materials obtained during the collection campaigns organized in Estonia and talked about the competition for collecting school lore of Estonians in Canada. The collection campaign began at the end of 2020 and will conclude when final submissions are due on June 1st, 2021. The lecture was also attended by students of the Toronto Estonian Supplementary School together with teachers and parents.
The 103rd birthday of the Republic of Estonia was celebrated on February 20th with the screening of Elmo Nüganen’s film “1944”, an Estonian war drama that follows the devastating events that occurred as the Soviet Union advanced against the Germany army to occupy Estonia at the end of the Second World War. The film was followed by a discussion with screenwriter and former military officer Leo Kunnas.
The month’s events ended on February 25th with the premiere of Estonian Music Week’s online concert series “Memories of Home”, introducing two female performers central to expanding the sonic capabilities and breaking through genre barriers of the accordion, Tiina Kiik (Canada) and Tuulikki Bartosik (Estonia), with a special guest Julia Aplin. The series embraces the duality of having roots in one country while starting afresh in another. In a global society characterized by immigration, many Canadians are familiar with memories that compete for the title of “home”. Such memories might be fleeting images or feelings deep down inside – vague or distinct – conjuring up an attachment to place. In the current climate of reflection, such memories are more precious than ever.
Recordings of the events can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/user/VEMUESC