Saturday, 16 January 2021

In memory of my Estonian grandfather

My grandfather Alexander would have turned 100 today if he were still alive, but sadly he left us too soon. I was two years old when he passed and unfortuntely don't remember him but I have spent a great amount of time researching his life and have a good understanding of the man he was. I am very proud of my grandfather.


Alexander Lestal was born in 1921 in Yaroslavl Russia to Estonian parents Arthur and Margarethe Lestal. His father was an accounting clerk and photographer and his mother trained as a cook in Moscow. When Alexander was three months old his parents decided to move back to Estonia and he grew up in the newly formed Republic of Estonia. 

My grandfather had a big family network in Estonia. He had lots of cousins and there were always family gathering to attend. He lived on Kopli Street and often accompanied his father to the countryside on weekends to assist with his photography work.

Alexander age seven dressed in a sailor suit.

At eighteen Alexander's life was interrupted with the outbreak of World War Two. He had just finished high school and was working in electronics when a cruel twist of fate changed his life forever. Alexander was drafted into the German Army, first sent to work in an ammunitions factory then became as trainee ambulance officer. He was stationed at Stettin and was badly injured during an air raid. He was sent to the military hospital in Amberg and was a patient there from March - April 1945. When the war ended he found himself displaced and spent four years living in the Displaced Persons Camp in Hamburg.

During his time at the camp Alexander studied economics at the Baltic University. His mother Margarthe lived nearly at Zoo Camp and this was where Alexander met his future wife Hertha. She lived in the same building as his mother whom he visited regularly. Like many, my grandfather didn't complete his studies at the Baltic University, he applied to immigrate to Brazil. For some reason he changed his mind and chose Australia instead.

On 23rd Decmember 1948 my grandfather Alexander arrived in Australia. My grandmother joined him four months later followed by his mother Margarethe . My grandparents married in Wagga Wagga in 1949 and fulfilled their two year work agreement with the Australian Government.  They later had two sons.

Alexander with his wife Hertha, his mother Margarethe and two sons.
Australia 1954.

My grandfather was quite gifted musically. He learnt piano as a child and could pick up new instruments with ease. His favourite instrument was the accordian, it kept him comfort during the war years. Yoga was also a big part of his life, he was aware of its benefits and taught classes in Australia. 

Whenever I speak to my father about Alexander he always smiles and says 'he was a very interesting man'. He wrote articles, had photographs published in newspapers and taught yoga. He also knew remedies for a lot of different ailments. I wish my grandfather had lived longer, there is so much I would love to ask him. Palju õnne vanaisa.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Keep in touch with Global Estonians

There are between 165,000 and 200,000 Estonians living outside the country right now, equating to 15-20 percent of the entire Estonian citizenry.  Estonian communities can be found worldwide, both in English-speaking countries and beyond, ERR News, in conjunction with the Integration Foundation (Integratsiooni Sihtasutus), has launched a weekly Global Estonian Report, which gives a weekly window into Estonian communities and culture from around the globe.

The new year begins with the announcement of a number of programs, competitions, and Estonian language courses aimed at global Estonians. Here are a few to attract your interest.

The Integration Foundation (INSA) announced a call for proposals to support the projects and events of Estonian cultural societies abroad, which contributes to the preservation of the Estonian language and culture around the world and to the preservation of ties to Estonia. The budget of the program is 40 000 Euros with a maximum of 4000 Euros going to each applicant. Applications can be submitted until February 8. The application round is funded by the Ministry of Culture. INSA announces support for Estonian cultural societies abroad

On January 20th at 10 a.m. (Estonian time), registration for free Estonian language courses will begin on the website of the Integration Foundation. The Foundation offers online courses and classroom learning. Adults above 18 years of age can register for the courses, using an ID card, Mobile-ID or Smart-ID. Registration for free Estonian language courses opens on January 20th

Vikerraadio's new morning program "Hajala ringvaade" (World Estonian View) offers an insight into the lives and experiences of Estonians and Estonian communities abroad. Tune into Vikerraadio on Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) every Sunday morning with host Maarja Merivoo-Parro who has long-term experience in international radio work. The radio program is in Estonian. ERR launches radio program about global Estonians

Upcoming events - Virtual workshop: Learn to bake Estonian dark rye bread

More information about Global Estonians cane be found here.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Video: Winter in Estonia

2020 was the warmest year in Estonian climate history. Last January the average air temperature was more than 6 degrees above the norm. The weather hasn't been mild like that since 1961 yet it was still cold. Estonia is simply stunning in winter. This video by Priidu Saart reveals just how beautiful it can be!

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year! Head uut aastat!

I hope everyone enjoyed their celebrations last night despite the restrictions. 2020 was an unusual year due to the coronavirus but now with the vaccine at hand, 2021 definitely looks brighter. Happy New Year everyone! Lets make it a good one!


Thursday, 24 December 2020

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas despite the current coronavirus situation. Eat, drink and be merry. It's time to enjoy ourselves. We all deserve a bit of cheer! Thanks for reading! 


Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Christmas carols sung in Estonian

With Christmas almost upon us, no doubt we are all getting ready for the big day. I love Christmas and nothing pleases me more than buying gifts for my loved one, decorating my home and eating delicious food! I will be busy in the kitchen tomorrow morning cooking up a feast whilst listening to Christmas carols in the background. Estonian songs are the best of course! Here are a few I plan to start my day with. Merry Christmas everyone!



The traditional Christmas carol 'We wish you a Merry Christmas' has a few variants in Estonian. You can either use the word 'kauneid or rõõmsaid'. Here are the lyrics.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas
(Me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,)


Me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
lisaks head aastat uut!

Toob kõigile sära silma,
toob kõigile sära silma,
toob kõigile sära silma,
rahu maa peale toob

Seal leidke kõik see,
mis leidmata veel,
ja kaunimad päevad
olgu ootamas eel!

Me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
me soovime rõõmsaid jõule,
lisaks head aastat uut!