2023 has been deemed the year of movement by the Republic of Estonia’s Ministry of Culture. In that light, VEMU’s program reminds people that a healthy body means a healthy mind and soul. On January 22nd, we had a screening of the 1959 Soviet-era Estonian film “Mischievous Curves,” which tells a surprisingly propagandafree tale of a love triangle and motoracing. The film is well-known amongst those who have grown up in Estonia, yet for most local Estonians, this was a new viewing experience.
VEMU has aimed to introduce and educate about various sports and modes of healthy movement. You can hear about these themes in the first two Estonian language episodes of season 2 of EstoCast, a joint podcast venture between VEMU, Estonian Music Week, and Estonian Life newspaper. Helle Varrik, a sports lover and graduate of Tartu University with a degree in fitness sciences who has lived in Canada for over 30 years, speaks about what role women’s rhythmic gymnastics, skiing, and golf have played in her life. Young Canadian-Estonian sports and movement enthusiast Kirke Timmusk delves into the interesting world of karate, axe-throwing, and many sportsrelated topics. To continue with the exploration of movement, Julia DeSotto conducted a Zumba workshop on March 1st with a focus on middle-aged and older individuals interested in movement.
We’ve also had various captivating lectures and seminars on everything ranging from historical to current topics and everything in between. On January 11th, journalist, political scientist and Macdonald Laurier Institute senior fellow Marcus Kolga spoke about “Disinformation Awareness and Defence”. As someone very knowledgeable and well-versed on digital communication, he had a lot to share with listeners — for example, interesting details on information warfare from Russia and China, as well as tips on how to tell the difference between information, misinformation, and disinformation. A lively Q&A session and discussion followed the lecture.
A Zoom seminar titled “Libraries — a Fashion Trend?” occurred on January 28th. This question was pondered and answered by Anne Määrmann and Kristi Prinzmann, interior architects from the firm Bob&Doko who worked on the modern Viimsi Library, the director of Viimsi Library Tiiu Valm, who spearheaded the rejuvenation and modernisation of the building, and director Janne Andersoo as well as operations manager Kristel Veinmann from the National Library of Estonia, which is also starting on a major rejuvenation and renovation. Since VEMU is also preparing and planning for its permanent exhibit in the new building, there are ongoing discussions about what functions and purposes this kind of institution should fill. VEMU has the largest Estonian-themed archival library in all of North America, as well as the smaller-scale Estonian Studies Library, which is popular among readers in the local Estonian community. And so therefore, we have to educate ourselves and our readers and stay in touch with what modern libraries are like. The event was also a conclusion to the 2022 year of libraries.
On February 5th, we celebrated political scientist and professor Rein Taagepera’s 90th birthday, who has a lot in common and a shared history with CanadianEstonians. Professor Taagepera recalled the tense years between 1987 and 1991 in Estonia and abroad, his first visits to Estonia, how he was a candidate in the Estonian presidential race, and much more. He read excerpts from his book of memoirs titled “When History Started to Move,” which was released in the fall. All copies of his book by publisher Ilmamaa that were available for sale were sold out. Following the lecture was a less-formal celebratory gathering, at which the professor was serenaded with “Ta elagu!” and a champagne toast. Several congratulatory speeches were held. The event took place in partnership with Korp! Rotalia and the University of Toronto Chair of Estonian Studies.
Tõnu Tõsine, an avid history enthusiast, presented a lecture on February 15th titled “The Unique Journey of Estonian Refugees: The Trip to North America with Viking Ships”. “Viking ships” were the vessels that Baltic refugees attempted to journey to North America with after the Soviet Union began to demand their return in 1944. Due to the legal immigration process being very slow, smart and energetic, people began to search for their creative ways to get to the West. All hard-earned savings were fair game, ships were bought, and so these courageous individuals began their trying journeys. Most of the refugees that arrived illegally in Canada were allowed to stay. The arrival of the “Viking ships” in Canada created a sizeable reaction and convinced the government to simplify the immigration process.
VEMU’s winter program has its own place for films. On February 26th, a screening of the first part of the longawaited Middle Ages crime movie “Apteeker Melchior”, (director Elmo Nüganen, 2022) based on Indrek Hargla’s popular book series took place. Come spring, many more film nights are planned.
On February 24th, VEMU/Estonian Museum Canada helped organise the celebration of Estonia’s 105th Independence Day at Tartu College, along with the Estonian Central Council in Canada. Young Estonian rising musician Ingmar Kiviloo, currently studying at Berklee College in the US, provided fantastic entertainment throughout the night. After the march in support of Ukraine that took place in the heart of Toronto, several representatives of local Eastern European communities who had been at the march joined in on the festivities at Tartu College. The warm and truly amazing sense of unity that formed gave everyone the strength to carry on.