Friday, 29 January 2021

Alfred Neuland: Estonia's first Olympic champion

Estonia’s debut at the Olympic Games in 1920 was a great success – three medals were won at the VII Olympic games held in Antwerp. The first Estonian to achieve the glory of an Olympic win was Alfred Neuland (1895-1966) from Valga. He won the gold medal in weightlifting by lifting 257.5 kg in the men’s lightweight class (men under 67.5 kg). The victory was indisputable as Neuland’s results were the best in all three lifts: 72.5 kg in one hand snatch, 75 kg in one hand clean and jerk and 110 kg in two hands clean and jerk.

Alfred Neuland

After the games Neuland continued to have an outstanding career: in 1922 he earned the title of World Champion in front of a home crowd at the Estonia Concert Hall in Tallinn, and he set a total of 10 Olympic and world records during his career. Neuland is also the first Estonian to win two Olympic medals; in Paris in 1924 he won the silver medal in the middleweight class. In addition to his athletic achievements, Neuland was also an esteemed weightlifting innovator and perfected lifting techniques.

Eesti Post released this silver stamp in Neuland's honour,

Alfred Neuland was a hero on many levels. He fought in World War I and the Estonian War of Independence, worked as a businessman, a weightlifting coach and a sports referee and he published several articles on weightlifting. A monument is erected in his hometown, Valga, and memorial competitions are organised in his honour. 2020 marked the 125th birthday of the first Estonian Olympic champion.

Neuland's monument in Valga

Estonia No.1 in EU for reading the longest each day

Estonians love to read and they do it longer than anyone else in the European Union according to a Eurostat study.  

A survey of people aged from 20 to 74 in 15 EU countries between 2008 to 2015 found that the average time spent reading books ranges from two minutes a day in France to 13 minutes in Estonia. In 2016, households in the EU spent over €90 billion or 1.1% of their total expenditure on books, newspapers and stationery. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Brighter days ahead in Estonian politics

The new Estonian government has been sworn in by President Kersti Kaljulaid. Kaja Kallas made history today by becoming the first female Estonian Prime Minister. Estonia is now the only country in the world with 'elected' women as Head of State and Head of Government. 

As former PM Taavi Rõivas said this morning 'Estonia is back to pursue being a dynamic, secure and reliable Nordic country'. I think many would agree with him. Congratulations to Kallas and her new government!

Monday, 25 January 2021

Estonia is the only country in the world to have a female President and Prime Minister

A new era has begun in Estonian politics. Kaja Kallas is set to become the first female Prime Minister of Estonia, her new government will take office this week. Kallas, a member of the Reform Party,  actually won the last election but couldn't secure a parliamentary majority. When coalition talks failed Juri Ratas remained Prime Minister. Now Kallas is back, with new appointments in her cabinet and after the scandals of last year, people are starting to feel optimistic. The future looks bright in Estonian politcs.  

Kaja Kallas  - Estonia's first female Prime Minister

Changes to the government were announced over the weekend,  new ministers will be:

Feeign Minister - Eva-Maria Liimets
Defence Minister - Kalle Laanet
Finance Minister  - Keit Pentus-Rosimannus
Justice Minister - Maris Lauri
Education Minister - Liina Kersna
Rural Affairs - Urmus Kruuse
Foreign Trade & IT - Andres Sutt

Kaja Kallas with President Kersti Kaljulaid

Friday, 22 January 2021

Baking Healthy Rye Bread

The weekend is almost upon us, why not bake some delicious Estonian bread. This video will show you how.

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. My grandfather was also a member of Kaitseliit, the the Estonian Defence League.

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!