Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Estonia's Underwater Prison Makes it on the Amazing Places List

I like it when Estonia pops up on the radar, drawing international attention in a positive way. Recently that was due to the publicity surrounding a former prison in Rummu, located in north-western Estonia.  The prison was established in 1938 at the same time as the limestone quarry that was situated next door. During Soviet times inmates were forced to work in the quarry, essentially providing free labour. After Estonia's restoration of its independence in 1991, operations abruptly ceased and the quarry and prison flooded soon thereafter.

Today the site resembles a half-flooded Atlantis consisting of ruined buildings in the middle of a lake with a white beach lining its shores.  There are also several white limestone "hills" in the area with eroded surfaces that resemble rock formations found in the American and Australian deserts.  This peculiar combination in the middle of the Estonian countryside makes the site otherworldly in literally every respect.

Bathers flock to its beach in summertime and the lake is a year round favourite for scuba divers exploring the ruined and partially flooded buildings.  What was once a dark and forbidding place has now emerged into an adventure lover's paradise.

To read the full article and to discover more great places from around the world, please click here:

Monday, 25 August 2014

Cute Estonian Postcards

It's Monday, so here is something cute. I've always been fond of these two postcards - they're so adorable!

It looks like these images were taken at the Tammsaare Farm in Albu, Vetepere. Such a beautiful setting for promoting Estonia. The striking colours used in the girl's national costume are so delightful and evoke great feelings of national pride.  I love it!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Acknowledging Ukrainian Independence Day

Today is Ukrainian Independence Day.  I have noticed over the past several months that more readers from Ukraine than any other country have been visiting this blog.  This has of course delighted me very much and I saw today as a good opportunity to thank all of my Ukrainian readers and to extend my best wishes to them on their national holiday.

Ukraine's history is not unlike Estonia's.  The country was subject to foreign rule for eight centuries, from the collapse of Kievan Rus in the 12th century through to 1917 when an unstable and short lived Ukrainian republic was established. The country was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1921 up until 24th August 1991 when independence from the Soviet Union was achieved through a referendum. The country continues to endure much suffering as a result of foreign interference in its affairs and most Estonians I have spoken to understand the longing of the Ukrainian people to determine their country's future, whatever that may be. No one cares more about Ukraine's destiny than the Ukrainian people themselves.

Like Estonia, Ukraine has also suffered enormous population losses in the last hundred years as a result of state sponsored terror, murder and deportations.  Estonia lost 25% of its population after World War II from war deaths, Soviet and Nazi executions and Holocaust victims. Notwithstanding the enormous number of Ukrainian deaths in World War II, 7 million Ukrainians (25% of its population at that time and more than the entire population of the Baltic countries combined) perished between 1932 and 1933 in a premeditated and deliberately engineered famine known as the Holodomor (Ukrainian: "murder by starvation"). The famine was designed to wipe out the Ukrainian peasantry as part of Stalin's ruthless collectivisation of agriculture. All grain and foodstuffs were confiscated from Ukrainian peasants by Soviet troops and movement of the population was restricted.  People resorted to extreme measures to survive including catching rats, cats, birds and dogs because their food was simply taken away. Any attempts to hide or smuggle food were punished with death.

Today Ukraine is faced with major challenges from external forces for which Estonians and all other freedom loving peoples feel great empathy. After all the horrors the world has witnessed during the last hundred years you would think that the human race would be more evolved and have learned its lessons from the past. Clearly this is not the case for a great many individuals.  Ukraine has enormous potential; an educated and motivated workforce, highly fertile black soil and abundant natural resources.  Once stability is restored in Ukraine and the nation is able to embark upon a genuinely democratic path with an efficient and limited government, the country will be able to fulfil all of its underlying potential. Ukrainians love their country just as the Estonians love theirs and there is no reason why Ukraine should not thrive as Estonia has done once the country gets back on its feet.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

25th Anniversary of the Baltic Way

25 years ago today an event took place which the world had never witnessed before. Around 2 million people joined hands to form a 650km long human chain along the roads linking Tallinn, Riga and Vilnius, the capital cities of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania respectively. This protest event would become known as the "Baltic Way".

The event marked the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, a secret arrangement in 1939 between Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union which divided Europe into "spheres of influence". Contained within the pact were secret protocols which led to the illegal invasion, occupation and annexation of the Baltic countries into the Soviet Union in 1940. 

Protesters used radios and free buses to coordinate the event.  It was entirely peaceful and sought to draw the world's attention to the illegality of the Baltic countries' occupation by the Soviet Union and the longing of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to restore their independence and determine their own futures. The event was also a show of solidarity between the three Baltic nations and a song in three languages "The Baltics are Waking up" was sung by protesters. The threat of Soviet military action to crush the protest was ever present but that did not deter these people. East Germany and Romania had also offered military assistance to the Soviet Union for this purpose but despite this looming threat, the protest proceeded peacefully. 

Over the next two years further protests together with other political and economic events led to the Baltic countries restoring their independence in 1991. 

For more information about the Baltic Way, please click on the links below:

The theme song 'The Baltics are Waking Up' / 'Ärgake Baltimaad' was a trilingual song sung  by the participants from the three countries.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

The History of Estonian Bread

Estonian bread is sacred - in fact in old times if you dropped a piece of bread on the floor the custom was to pick it up and kiss it! Bread has been a central part of Estonian life for centuries and no meal is complete without out it. Today, Estonian bread is still cherished and given the respect it deserves. It is very unique in terms of flavour and undoubtedly among some of the tastiest bread in the world. Usually the darker the bread, the better!

For an interesting read on the history of Estonian bread, please click on the link below:

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

A Poem to Celebrate Day of Restoration of Independence

This poem by Irma Truupõld (1903-1980) was originally published in Päevaleht on the 24th of February 1934 to mark Independence Day in that year. The poem is about pride and freedom.

Great Reading Materials Produced by The Eesti Instituut

I love receiving mail, it's even better when it comes from Estonia!

Recently I ordered some information booklets from the Eesti Instituut and they arrived in the post on Saturday. The pack contains a great selection of interesting reading materials that is sure to increase my knowledge about Estonia. As tomorrow is Day of Restoration of Independence, it might be fitting to spend the day reading up on the beautiful country that is Estonia.

If you are interested in some of the publications produced by the Eesti Instituut, please click on the link to learn more - http://www.estinst.ee/eng/home/

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Masterpieces of Estonian Literature now Available as Free E-Books

A new initiative with the support of the Ministry of Culture programme "Estonian Literature" has enabled 116 Estonian literature classics to be available as free e-books. Some of Estonia's most acclaimed and beloved authors including Anton Hansen Tammsaare, August Kitzberg, Eduard Vilde, Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, Eduard Bornhöhe, Juhan Liiv, Lydia Koidula, Jüri Parijõgi and many others can now be accessed via the National Library of Estonia's digital services department known as DIGAR.  By the end of the year, a further 50 books are scheduled to be available and the collection will surely continue to grow in time.  

You can search for the e-books here by clicking the link:

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Estonian Triplets Lily, Leila and Liina to Run in Today's EM Marathon Held in Zurich

Estonian Runners in Kenya

Koitjärve laager - YMCA Camp of Koitjärve 1937 Video

I just watched this video and realised I have a photo of my grandfather taken here as a boy. In 1937 he was sixteen years old and it's quite possible he could be in this video. I need to investigate! It's wonderful to see what these young Estonian boys did at these summer camps. Looks like a lot of fun!

My grandfather Alexander is third from the end.

Video from 1938 camp.

Aegvõtted Tallinnale / ETV Ajavaod

Estonian history program currently airing on ETV.


Where to Read Old Estonian Newspapers

I was sent an interesting article this morning mentioning the incident when Soviet soldiers slaughtered over 100 horses at Kopli cemetery when they retreated in September 1941. Why did they do it? Who knows, the Soviet committed so many senseless acts of violence. One thing is for sure however, Soviets had little regard for the living and left a trail of destruction in their wake.

To read more old Estonian newspapers and rediscover history, please click on the link - http://dea.nlib.ee/index.php?list

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Ortvin Sarapu - the Kiwi Estonian

We know of Paul Keres, Estonia's greatest ever chess player born in Narva, but he is not the only world class player to have emerged from that city. Ortvin Sarapu (born Sarapuu) was also born in Narva in 1924 and eventually made a name for himself as a chess player in his adopted country of New Zealand.  Ortvin Sarapu won or shared the New Zealand Chess Championship some 20 times, more than any player has won their own country's national championship before or since.

As a boy Sarapu loved playing different sports and started playing chess aged 8. His first win was the Estonian Junior Championship in 1940. He fled to Finland in 1943 after the German army occupied Estonia and later stayed with a family friend in Denmark.  In 1946 he won both the Copenhagen championship and the Copenhagen 5 minute blitz championship. His only international tournament held in Europe was in Oldenburg, West Germany in 1949 which saw him finish in fifth place.

Like many Estonians after World War II, Sarapu found himself displaced and with no home to which he could return. He wanted to get away from the devastation in Europe and was advised by New Zealand chess player Robert G. Wade that the country might be a suitable place for him to resettle. Wade wrote a letter of recommendation for his immigration application which helped him to start a new life there.

Shortly after his arrival in Wellington in 1950 it became apparent that his chess skills were far ahead of the standard in New Zealand at the time. His prowess on the board did much to raise the profile of chess in New Zealand. He went on to win or share the New Zealand Chess Championship some 20 times, became an FIDE International Master in 1966 and was eventually awarded an MBE for his services to the game.

Sarapu married his Polish wife Barbara in 1950 and had one son Peter to whom he taught chess at the tender age of three and a half. In New Zealand he became affectionately known as "Mr. Chess" and the Sarapu Cup is named in his honour. Ortvin Sarapu died in Auckland in 1999 and was playing aggressive chess right up until the day before he died. He was a true master of his game and will always be remembered as a pioneer of New Zealand chess.

National Archives Searching for Forgotten Souls

The National Archives of Estonia will soon embark upon an unprecedented new project aimed at discovering more details about the Estonians who participated in WWI. Many of these men who survived the war later formed the volunteer army that went to battle once more and secured Estonia's freedom.  Their bravery and contribution should never be forgotten.

Read the full story here:

At least four of my family members took part in both WWI and the Estonian War of Independence and I will naturally follow this campaign with interest.

National Archive of Estonia.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Estonian Houses Around the World

A new website is currently in development linking all the Estonian houses (Eesti Maja) around the world. I've often wondered myself, particularly when travelling, where these buildings are located as it would be great to visit and experience an event held by local Estonians in the area.

For now, I've put together a list of Estonian Houses I'm aware of and I'm sure when the new Eesti Maja website is up and running, it will contain a much more comprehensive list and useful information.

The new Eesti Maja website can be found at: http://www.eestimaja.ee/

You can find Estonian Houses here:

There are three Estonian Houses in Australia, located at:

141 Campbell Street, Sydney, NSW, 2010

43 Melville Road, West Brunswick, VIC, 3055

200 Jeffcott Street, North Adelaide, SA, 5006


Sydney Eesti Maja

North America - USA
New York
20 Middle Island Blvd, Middle Island, NY, 11953-1409

14700 Estonian Lane, Riverwoods, IL, 60015-3553

Los Angeles
1306 W 24th Street, Los Angeles, CA, 90007

New Jersey
4 Cross Street & East Veterans Highway, Jackson, NJ, 08527

Eesti Maja New York

958 Broadview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4K 2R6

Eesti Maja Toronto

18 Chepstow Villas, London, W11 2RB

366 Fosse Road North, Leicester, LE3 5RS

Eesti Maja ;London

Sörnäisten rantatie 22, 00580, Helsinki

Wallingatan 32-34, 111 24, Stockholm

A new Eesti Maja is set to open in Wilmersdorf, Berlin early next year. For information about Estonian community events in Germany, these links may offer some assistance.
http://www.eesti.de/  http://www.deg-berlin.de/index.html

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

How to Research Your Estonian Family History in Australia

It's a natural human curiosity to want to know where you came from. Not knowing where to start can often be the daunting part but once you make the initial queries and discover some interesting facts it often leads to further lines of enquiry. Before you know it you have gathered a wealth of information you would never have known had you not taken that first step. Researching your family history is a very rewarding yet time consuming project but I'm sure you'll agree, it's well worth the effort.

If you just starting out and not sure where to look, I have put together a list of links to help you with your search.  Good luck!

National Archives of Australia. http://www.naa.gov.au/collection/fact-sheets/fs170.aspx

Estonian Archives in Australia. http://archives.eesti.org.au/

From Estonia to Thirlmere.

Australian Department of Immigration. Immigration history 1945-1955.

Australian displaced persons down under.

The Fifth Fleet - website dedicated to the DPs who came to Australia after WWII.
http://www.fifthfleet.net/ http://immigrantships.net/ww2_au.html

Immigration Place.

Bathurst migrant centre Australia.

Bonegilla migrant centre Australia. http://www.bonegilla.org.au/

Uranquinty migrant centre Australia.

National library of Australia http://trove.nla.gov.au/

Australia's migrant heritage. http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/belongings-home/about-belongings/australias-migration-history/

State records of NSW. www.records.nsw.gov.au

If you require help researching you family in Estonia, the Estonian Biographical Centre accept orders to complete the research for you. More information can be found at: http://www.isik.ee/english/

Alternatively,  you can search through the documents yourself at the Estonian Archives. http://ais.ra.ee/

World War I Centennial Brings Calls for More Research into Estonia's Role

Monday, 4 August 2014

20 Things You Didn't Know About A.H.Tammsaare

In July 2014 the world saw Tammsaare's Truth & Justice I translated into English for the very first time. The epic five part novel inspired by the writer's childhood home in Vetepere is one of the best depictions of Estonian rural life ever written. For the past 70 years generations of Estonians, Germans, Russians, Latvians and Finns have appreciated the works of Tammsaare and the English speaking world finally has the opportunity to do so too.

Those already familiar with his works may already know a thing or two about Tammsaare but if you are just starting to explore them and want to know more about the great man of Estonian literature, here are twenty things you didn't know about Tammsaare.

1. As a child Tammsaare worked on his parents' farm as a herd boy.

2. Tammsaare was an avid reader and seeker of truth. His favourite author was Fyodor Dostoyevski and he was also fond of the works of Shakespeare, Zoya and Oscar Wilde. At university he was once asked which of Goethe's works he had read. Tammsaare replied 'everything'.

3. Tammsaare was a disciplined, unpretentious and mentally independent person. He strongly believed in freedom of speech and would not accept commissions or grants if it affected his writing integrity. 100% of his writings were his own.

4. When Tammsaare moved to Tallinn in 1919 he worked as a journalist before earning his income from translating, writing articles and from new editions of earlier works.

5. Postimees was the first Estonian newspaper to publish one of Tammsaare's short stories.

6. In 1929 Tammsaare translated Dostoyevski's Crime and Punishment into Estonian.

7.  Tammsaare didn't get married until he was 41 years old. In 1919 he wed Käthe Veltman, a proof reader who was eighteen years his junior.

8. Tammsaare lived a secluded life in a circle of family and a few close friends from his university days.

9. Playing the violin was one of Tammsaare's great joys in life but he was forced to give it up due to poor health.

10. Tammsaare cheated death twice. He once had a severe case of tuberculosis which saw him spend over a year in a sanatorium in Sochi. Later he had another health scare, this time an intestinal ulcer. He underwent risky surgery in which the doctor told him 'only 2% of patients make it through this' Thankfully, it turned out he was one of the lucky ones!

11. Tammsaare believed a human being should accomplish something significant during his lifetime and not just disappear into oblivion.

12. Tammsaare travelled outside of Estonia only once during his lifetime. That was to Sochi, Russia in 1911.

13.  Tammsaare has three museums dedicated to him.  His parents' farm in Vetepere where he was born, the house in Sochi where he stayed whilst recovering from TB and his last home in Koidula Street Tallinn.

14. The first work of Tammsaare to be translated into German was 'The Dwarf' in 1936.

15. Tammsaare believed that religious instruction in schools should be replaced by the teaching of the history of religions.

16.  The first Tammsaare novel translated into English was actually the last one he wrote.

17. Tammsaare died at his desk in 1940 as a result of a heart attack.

18. At his request when he died, Tammsaare only wanted a single wreath at his funeral. He asked that all the money that would otherwise have been used for flowers or wreaths be placed into a fund to enable his works to be translated into other languages.

19. More of Tammsaare's works have been translated into Latvian and Russian than any other languages.

20. Tammsaare Park located in central Tallinn was named in his honour. The statue of him was erected in 1978 to mark what would have been his 100th birthday.

Home Sweet Home - The Estonian Way!

A bit of afternoon creativity!

Ilus Eesti - Seliküla