Thursday, 30 January 2020

Original Tartu Peace Treaty to go on display

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Tartu Peace Treaty, the historic document will go on display at the Estonian National Museum (ERM) for a limited time. The peace treaty can be viewed in the "People and the State" room, where the full text of the treaty can also be read on a screen. On February 2nd admission to the ERM exhibition will be free.

The Estonian War of Independence took place from 1918-1920 and consisted entirely of volunteers on the Estonian side, The signing of the Tartu Peace Treaty thus ended the 431-day war with Russia. A commemorative stamp and coin have been released to mark the ocassion.

Tuesday, 28 January 2020

President Kaljulaid makes world's first digital signature from Antarctica

President Kersti Kaljulaid has been in Antarctica for the past several days commemorating the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the continent. On the 27th of January 1820 Baltic German explorer Admiral Fabian von Bellingshausen and his second-in-command Mikhail Lazarev were the first to see the land of Antarctica. Von  Bellingshausen was born on the Estonian island of  Saaremaa. Now making history once again, Estonian President Kaljulaid has signed the world's first digital signature in Antarctica! 

In celebration of 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica, a commemorative coin and stamp set has been released.

Restored and colourised film of Tallinn 1939

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Nublu takes home four awards at the Estonian Music Awards 2020

The Estonian-Russian song 'Für Oksana' by Nublu & Gameboy Tetris won Song of the Year at the Estonian Music Awards last night. Nublu also won Male Artist of the Year, Hip-Hop Rap Artist of the Year and Best Music Video of the Year. Newcomer Anna Kaneelina also took home four awards last night including Album of the Year for "Anna Kaneelina".

Full list of winners:

Debut of the Year - Anna Kaneelina "Anna Kaneelina"

Classical Album of the Year - Heino Eller Symphonic poems. Performers: Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, conductor Olari Elts

Jazz Album of the Year - Kadri Voorand "In Duo with Mihkel Mälgand"

Ethno / Folk / Folk Album - Black Bread Gone Mad "Ayibobo"

Electronic Album of the Year - Bert On Beats "TEN"

Alternative Album of the Year / Indie Album - Anna Kaneelina "Anna Kaneelina"

Metal album of the Year - Kannabinõid "3"

Rock Album of the Year - Põhja Konn, Estonian Cello Ensemble, Vox Clamantis "Hetk. InSpereeritud Tüürist"

Pop Artist of the Year - Liis Lemsalu

Hip-Hop / Rap / R'n'B Artist of the Year - Nublu

Female Artist of the Year - Anna Kaneelina "Anna Kaneelina"

Male Artist of the Year - Nublu

Ensemble of the Year - Põhja Konn, Estonian Cello Ensemble, Vox Clamantis "Hetk. InSpereeritud Tüürist"

Artist of the Year - 5MIINUST

Best Song of the Year - Nublu x gameboy tetris "für Oksana"

Music Video of the Year - Nublu x gameboy tetris "für Oksana" (director: Marta Vaarik)

Album of the Year - Anna Kaneelina "Anna Kaneelina"

Thursday, 23 January 2020

The Electronic Memorial Dedicated to the Victims of Communism

Tens of thousands of Estonians were repressed, deported or outright murdered during the Soviet occupations which took place from 1940-1941 and 1944-1991. These Estonians were innocent people going about their normal lives until the Soviets deemed them enemies of the state and changed their fates forever. We will never forget these Soviet atrocities and will forever remember the victims whose lives were tragically lost.

If you are Estonian, enter your surname in the search field on the website. You may be surprised to discover that more people in your family tree were affected than you originally thought. You can search the database here: Electronic Memorial

Sunday, 19 January 2020

A glimpse into the life of Juhan (John) Jurss

Estonia lost a large proportion of its ethnic population as a result of World War Two. The Soviet and Nazi occuaptions had a devastating effect on Estonian society that caused the deaths of tens of thousands. In 1944 thousands of people fled Estonia to escape the advancing Red Army who were known for their ruthlessness and brutality. No-one wanted to endure the Soviet occupation for a second time. The first one had been an indication of what would come.

Not everyone who fled Estonia survived the ordeal. Many perished along the way, caught up in bomb raids in Germany or contracted illnesses such as typhus or tuberculosis. The fortunate ones were those who managed to find shelter in DP camps after the war and who later took up opportunities to resettle in other parts of the world.

I have often wondered what happened to some of these people. Where did they go after they fled Estonia and what was their experience in the DP camps? Did they find happiness in their new adopted countries? Did their lives flourish once again? Every Estonian has a story. There are those with tales of survival as they fled the Soviet occupation, and there are stories of endurance from those who stayed. It is through these stories that we frequently find similarities with our own lives, or those of our more senior family members.

I recently came into contact with Juhan Jurss, a WWII survivor who gave me his account. Juhan and his mother were two of the many Estonians who fled the homeland on 22nd September 1944. This is his story.

Juhan's house in Viljandi from 1940-1944.
He lived at Karja Tanav.1

Born Juhan Niimiste in Viljandi on 9th September 1940 Juhan has fond memories of his youth in Estonia. He loved going for walks along the Viljandi marina and can still recall the smell of the paint under the boats. When he was 11 months old Juhan's passion for music began, it all started with his parents' gramophone. 

Juhan with his parents Ellen and Aleksander in 1944.
Juhan's kodu-nimi was 'Juku'

Juhan recounts the decision to leave Estonia on 22.9.1944. 'Things were getting a little too hot, with a German machine gun next to our little house firing across Viljandi Lake at the Russians on the other side.' It was time to leave.

Like many others, Juhan and his mother fled to Germany. They travelled through Latvia, Lithuania and Poland by any means possible - by truck, train boxcar or wagon. A lot of the journey was done on foot and usually at night and they often slept in fields during the day. They were lucky to miss a train heading west when it was blown up in a tunnel by a Soviet bomber. Juhan and his mother arrived in Dresden a few days before it was bombed. They survived by taking shelter in an underground railway station.

After the war Juhan and his mother spent many years living in different DP camps in Germany and Austria. Pegnitz, Bayreuth, Augsburg, Wildflecken, Valka, Dutschendach, Geislingen and Delmenhorst are all places they rested their heads at night. 

Juhan continued school whilst living at the Valka DP camp in Nuremberg.

Juhan lived at Geislingen for several years prior tro relocating to Australia.

Christmas at Geislingen in 1948.
Juhan's mother remarried at Valka in 1948 and it is here that Juhan adopted the surname Jurss.

Juhan had a very good relationship with his step-father Albert who was also his god-father.

Juhan arrived in Australia in 1950 onboard the Dundalk Bay.

The journey to Australia took six weeks.

Juhan with his mother and step-father in Brisbane in 1968.
It was in Australia that he anglicised his name from Juhan to John.

After arriving in Australia in 1950 Juhan completed his education. He enjoyed primary school in Australia but found higher education dull and boring. He was a self-taught drummer and pursued his passion for music. In the course of his career Juhan was in nine bands and freelanced in several others before becoming a successful audio engineer and record producer.

Recording at Channel Ten Brisbane in 1971.

Juhan with his band 'The Clefs' in 1977.

Over the years Juhan has won numerous awards for his work on various recording projects that were released in Canada, Europe and Australia. He has worked with many well-known Australian entertainers such as Smokey Dawson and Normie Rowe and has met many big international artists during his career. 

During his career Juhan was fortunate to meet performers such as Mick Jagger, Tom Jones, Helen Shapiro, Ringo Starr, and Spike Milligan to name a few. He recounts that these people are absolutely nothing like the way they were portrayed by the media. Juhan said  'one of the finest people,in and out of the industry that I have ever met was Roy Orbison. He was most probably one of the gentlest people I have known.'

Juhan married his sweetheart Norma in 1971.

Smokey Dawson visiting Juhan in his home for a recording session, pictured with both their wives

In addition to his studio work Juhan previously held the role of Vice President at Actor's Equity, and Treasurer & President of the Queesland Recording Association. 

Juhan's passion for music was a driving force in his life that led to many successes. He has other interests of course, including sport, science, nature and mathematics and admires the work of Tesla and Einstein. One thing Juhan is particularly fond of is problem solving; he has always enjoyed a good challenge!

Looking back now, Juhan saw his youth as one big adventure. Many times he found himself in dangerous situations, narrowly escaping serious injury or death but it was those life experiences that shaped him. It gave him a far greater education and a much better sense of what is important in life compared to that which he might otherwise have had. "Family is the most precious thing", he said "and whatever else you want in life will follow naturally.".

In September this year Juhan will celebrate his 80th birthday. He has lived an eventful life and no doubt his escapades could fill a book.  Juhan has flourished in Australia, the country he now calls home.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Bank of Estonia estimates Estonians hold approximately 44 million kroons

This is a very interesting article by ERR News. I for one still have many Estonian kroon banknotes and have no intension of ever cashing them in! Like my peers, I keep them in memory of the old days.

There are still tens of millions of euros worth of Kroons in Estonia and people cash them in every week, the Bank of Estonia said.

Although the euro has been in use in Estonia since January 1, 2011, not everyone has given up on the Estonian kroon, and there are estimated to be about 44 million worth of kroons in the country.

Margot Luukas, deputy head of the Cash and Infrastructure Department of Eesti Pank, said: "We still have 37.9 million kroons worth of banknotes and 6.7 million worth of coins in circulation at the end of the year."

The bank's museum still accepts kroons nine years after the introduction of the euro. Luukas said kroons are exchanged every day as people discover a stash of cash from a relative who has passed away or decide to swap their private collection.

"On average, we have six to 100 exchanges and the average value of one transaction is somewhere around 4,500 kroons," she said. "There have been larger sums where people did not know relatives had set aside their kroons. For example, they have been found among pieces of furniture during construction work."

If the average exchanged amount is 4,500 kroons, around €250-€300 euros, the highest amount the bank has exchanged after the euro was introduced was ten times higher. 

"Our museum shop had the biggest deal of about half a million kroons. Last year, the largest amount of money exchanged was around 100,000 kroons," said Luukas.

Those who keep kroons at home in memory of the old days do not have to worry. They can continue to be exchanged at the 2011 exchange rate.

"We have promised to exchange Estonian kroons indefinitely," Margot Luukas said.

Source: ERR News

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Estonia pledges support for Australia's bushfires

As an Estonian-Australian living abroad it fills me with great sadness each time I read the news for updates on the Australian bushfires. The fires are at an all-time catastrophic level, never seen before in Australia with no signs of relenting anytime soon. In some areas the flames reach 70 metres high, that's higher than the tallest point on the Sydney Opera House. 

Due to the current situation, the Estonian Embassy in Canberra has temporarily relocated to Sydney and the Estonian government has pledged €50,000 to the Australian Red Cross to help the victims.

The number of native animals who have perished in the bushfires is absolutely staggering. The state of New South Wales has lost one third of its koala population with more deaths expected due to a lack of food. My heart truly goes out to these koalas who don't have the physical ability to escape in time. Great efforts are underway to rescue injured koalas and the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is doing a great job. 

A fundraising campaign is open to help those koalas in need. You can help by clicking on the link: Help Thirsty Koalas Devastated by Recent Fires

Sunday, 5 January 2020

A look at Muhu embroidery

I love Estonian handicrafts. It's even more enjoyable watching experts practise their skills whilst describing it all in the beautiful Estonian language. Take a look.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Remembering our fallen heroes

100 years ago today at 10.30am the ceasefire in the War of Independence between Estonia and Soviet Russia came into effect.

Today we commemorate those who fought and gave their lives for Estonia's freedom. At 10.30 a.m., those heroes were honoured over the course of 100 seconds of silence, when the bells of every church in Estonia rang, train whistles blew, and ships horns sounded. Candles were also lit and wreaths were laid at all memorials associated with the War of Independence across Estonia.