VEMU/Estonian Studies Centre Collecting Contest “70 Years from the Mass Exodus”

March 10, 2014

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the great escape of 1944, when over 70,000 people fled Estonia from Soviet occupation. The journeys into the free world were dramatic and often tumultuous. The first stops in Sweden or Germany were considered temporary – the people hoped to return home. However, that did not happen. Those who did not remain in Sweden or Germany moved on to Australia, to North or South America, or to England. Many refugees tried living in several countries and on various continents over the next years. We are calling on people to record their families’ journeys and subsequent fates.

The contest: we are expecting escape themed stories that talk about leaving Estonia, the journey of the escape, arriving to new places and the life there, as well as the movements that followed which lead to arrival in Canada. We are also interested in how memories of the escape are carried on from generation to generation: if, how and what they speak about these memories in the family circle or in the Estonian community.

Who can participate?

  • All Canadian Estonians, both of older and younger generations, are welcome to participate.
  • The biographies of people who escaped Estonia in 1944 have been keenly collected in exile communities and in Estonia. These tales are mostly written or spoken by the people who were adults during the escape. The stories of the older generation are also very welcome to this contest – especially since there are not many people who carry on these memories.
  • Stories of Estonians who were children or teenagers during the escape have been far less documented. Yet, it is important to know how children and young people remember escaping and adapting to new locations.
  • Even those who have no personal memories of the escape can participate in the contest. We hope that current children and teens co-operate with parents, grandparents or great grandparents. They could interview and ask questions from both those who escaped as adults and those who were children at the time.

How to research?

  • You may submit your contribution in written format (in Estonian or English), or as an audio or video file. You may also create your own home page/virtual exhibition or even a documentary.
  • Things found in home archives, such as diaries reflecting the escape and starting of a new life in a new place, letters, documents and photos, as well as original memories that have been written down (or recorded) earlier, are VERY welcome to this contest. We also accept objects that were a part of the escape journey, with stories and information about the origin/ maker of the object, as well as the owner and more.
  • The collected material will be preserved in VEMU and with the author’s permission, will be used in future VEMU exhibitions.

The deadline of the submission is February 1st 2015.

Please submit your works to: VEMU/Estonian Studies Centre, 310 Bloor Street West, Toronto, ON M5S 1W4.

Along with your entry, present the details of the author: name, age, address, telephone number, email address.


Info: Piret Noorhani,, ph. 416 925 9405

Please visit for further contest details.