For the last year, Toronto has had to live with restrictions for so long that it is now being called North America’s lockdown capital. No other city on this continent has been in lockdown for as long as Toronto has. VEMU found a new rhythm last year and started offering online programming. In this spirit, we continued this past spring season: from January to May there were 24 different events.
March 3rd , Dr. Peeter Põldre gave his second Coronavirus-themed lecture, this time primarily sharing information about vaccines and giving his prediction on what 2021 may look like. Unfortunately, his predictions were not optimistic. We will likely have to continue our online programming into the fall season or best-case scenario in a hybrid format.
On March 11th and 18th, those interested in learning beginner watercolour techniques had the opportunity to do so in Enda Bardell’s workshops. The Estonian artist living in Vancouver had already led a similar workshop in 2020 organized by the Society of Estonian Artists in Toronto (EKKT) for their members. The Estonian Foundation of Canada had supported the development of instructional videos. Elva Palo, the chairwoman of EKKT, generously gave her permission for us to use these videos. 10 people participated in this workshop over Zoom from all over Canada and even one participant from Sweden.
On Mother Tongue Day, March 14th, we watched Enn Lillemetsa’s documentary “Betti Alver. Ilmauks on irvakil” (2020). The screening was followed by a discussion with literary scholar Sirje Kiin.
The series “Cooking with…” continued with Toronto St. Peter’s Congregation Pastor and Dean of the North American Estonian Lutheran Church (EELK) Mart Salumäe. On March 17th we prepared foods for fasting and on April 28th we prepared post-Easter dishes. The gastronome pastor cooked and shared background information along with charming stories about the dishes that were prepared.
April 11th, we watched a feature film about Estonian start-up life called “Chasing Unicorns” (2019). Eric Morrison, recognized Canadian journalist and one of the leaders of the IT conference Latitude 44 organized by VEMU in 2019, led the discussion with film director Rain Rannu.
April 21st, VEMU’s Estonian language book club held their spring meeting. The discussion was about Ilmar Külvet’s play “Sild üle mere” (Bridge Over the Sea) and novel “Kes oskab lugeda hieroglüüfe” (Who Can Read Hieroglyphs). One of the members of the book club had even seen the play on stage.
April 23rd, VEMU’s 9th Fundraising Dinner took place and it was dedicated to 30 years since the restoration of the Republic of Estonia’s independence. May 2nd, the conclusion of VEMU’s translation competition took place over Zoom.
May 5th, we watched an intriguing documentary from the ETV series “Eesti lood” – “Homme saabub paradiis” (2020). Estonia, where citizens still remember food stamps and scarcity of food, has now caught up with the developed world where wasting food has unfortunately, become the norm. During the discussion with film director Anna Hints and Kerly Ilves, champion of sustainable food use, many painful topics were discussed and attempts were made to find solutions to these problems.
VEMU celebrated International Museum Day from May 14th-18th with a game, which allowed participants to peek into VEMU’s collections. The simple card game, based on paying attention to finding two cards with matching shapes using the lowest number of clicks, turned out to be quite popular. We hope that this message also reached everyone: VEMU is ready to accept archival material and publications from Canadian Estonians.
On May 26th, the conference “Peggasuse seggadusest: Arno Vihalemm 110” took place in collaboration with the Estonian Literary Museum to commemorate the life and work of a talented artist and poet. Presentations were done by Janika Kronberg, Loone Ots, Marin Laak from Estonia, Sirje Kiin from Madison (USA), and Piret Noorhani from Toronto.
The Estonian Music Week online concert series “Memories of Home” continued with three concerts. On March 25th, Toronto Latvian Linda Kronbergs and young Toronto Estonians Helmi and Merike Hess along with Roland Campbell performed. Popular songs among Estonian and Latvian youth were sung. Long-time member of BaltHerNet and good friend in Riga, Ruta Karma helped pick out the songs. On April 15th, we introduced Estonian classical guitar virtuoso Roman Smirnov, who is now living in Toronto. On May 13th, Erik Kreem, the young pianist and composer born and raised in the Toronto Estonian community, performed. The concert series was supported by the Estonian Studies Centre, Northern Birch Credit Union and Heinsoo Insurance.