Saturday, 30 April 2022

Estonian Defence Minister Kalle Laanet meets his Ukrainian counterpart in Kiev

Defence Minister Kalle Laanet visited Kiev on Thursday to meet with Ukrainian military officials. Laanet informed the Ukrainian Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov that Estonia is ready to supply additional heavy weapons to Ukraine and organise training of Ukrainian defence forces to use Western weaponry.

Kalle Laanet with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been barbaric. Thousands of innocent civilians have been targeted and killed in Russia's attempt to take control of the country. The defence ministers visited the destroyed cities of Butša, Irpin and Berdyanka and discussed the suffering of the local people.

Laanet views the damage caused by Russia.

Estonia stand firmly with Ukraine. For Estonia, it is extremely important to support Ukraine in every way possible so that they can win the war and not let Russia achieve their strategic goals. Estonia was one of the first countries to start supporting Ukraine with military and humanitarian aid that now is in excess of 230 million Euros. Today Ukraine is fighting not only for its country's independence but for the security of all Europe.

Tuesday, 26 April 2022

New stamp issued in commemoration of the Raeapteek's 600th birthday

Tallinn's Town Hall Pharmacy (The Raeapteek) celebrates its 600th birthday this month. It is the oldest pharmacy in Europe that has been continuously operating in the original building since it first opened. The pharmacy was first mentioned on 8th April 1422 in the records of the town council of Tallinn. Those records reveal the Raeapteek was already on to its third owner by 1422 so the pharmacy is actually older than 600 years, however,  the exact age will never be known.

The Raeapteek has appeared in many photographs over the years but the oldest is this one taken during the visit of Swedish King Oscar II in 1882.

Monday, 25 April 2022

Happy DNA Day!

April 25 is International DNA Day. It began as an American national holiday which has since been celebrated internationally. World DNA Day commemorates the day in 1953 when scientists James Watson (USA), Francis Crick (UK), Maurice Wilkins (NZ) and Rosalind Franklin (UK) published a paper revealing the discovery of DNA's double helix structure.

DNA testing has become increasingly popular in recent years. People take the test for a number of reasons. They might be searching for a relative due to adoption or a parent being absent from their lives or they might be curious about their background or genetic make-up. I had my DNA tested in 2016 and then my father's in 2018 and the results were fascinating. I discovered I have so many relatives I never knew existed and the fun part (also frustrating) is trying to work out how we are all related.

My ethnic origins. 

My father's ethnic origins.

Two of the most popular DNA testing companies are FamilyTreeDNA and There are three main tests you can take - a family finder test that finds anyone related to you within the last six generations, Y-DNA (paternal line) and MTDNA (maternal line). Once you have the results you will see all your matches and the possible relationship they are to you, e.g. 1st cousin, 2nd-4th cousin, 3rd-5th cousin etc. Each DNA match comes with information about which chromosomes you have in common and the length of the centimorgans (cM), the higher the centimorgan value, the closer the relationship.

When I had my DNA tested it was done in hope of finding information about my father's mother. I know very little about her background apart from her parents' first names and countries of origin. DNA has revealed that my grandmother's father was Finnish and her mother was a mix of Swedish and Russian. My father's MTDNA results confirmed his maternal line is Swedish and we have many Swedish DNA matches in the 3rd-5th cousin range. It has been time consuming putting the family tree together but I am beginning to find clarity. If you don't know how you are related to a particular DNA match, try to determine how other matches are related to each other, this helps enormously.

DNA research can be very rewarding and I thoroughly recommend it. Happy DNA Day!

Wednesday, 20 April 2022

Plans underway to rename Tallinn's Lembitu Park as Ukraine Square

Since the war in Ukraine began in February, many countries have shown solidarity with Ukraine by renaming the street in which the Russian Embassy in their capital city is located. Some Estonians suggested doing the same in Tallinn but as the Russian Embassy is located on the historic Pikk Street, not everyone was keen on the idea.  Instead proposals have been made to rename a park in Tallinn as Estonians consider it important to show support for Ukraine.

Lembitu Park is the most likely choice. It is a symbolic place for many reasons – firstly, buildings in the area were destroyed in the March 1944 Soviet bombings and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is located on one side of the park. Nearby is Iceland Square, named after the first country to re-recognise Estonia's independence in 1991. If all goes to plan the MFA will be between two squares named after two brave nations.

Lembitu Park is likely to be renamed before summer and will undergo a design change. A bed of sunflowers (the national flower of Ukraine) will feature in the park and possibly a pond.

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Estonia leads the world in providing support for Ukraine’s defense in terms of GDP

According to the Kiel Institute, Estonia's humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine amounts to 0.8% of its GDP. This is far more than any other nation. There is only one word to describe Germany - pathetic.

Monday, 18 April 2022

Easter in Lithuania: Palanga's Easter Egg Alley

Easter is one of my favourite holidays. The ancient pagan springtime tradition is all about fertility and new life which is reflected in the symbols of the bunny, chicken and eggs. Easter is a fun celebration that inspires us to be creative by making colourful decorations and painting eggs. It's also a long four day holiday so it's a great time of year to get away for a long weekend.

I've often gone away for the Easter break. I've enjoyed Easter in Prague, Kiev, Krakow and Lusatia. They have such beautifully painted eggs in these places. One place I'm interested in going to perhaps next year is Palanga in Lithuania. Every year they have an Easter egg display in the street and its truly delightful.

This year's exhibition features designs from around the world.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Happy Easter everyone! Häid lihavõttepühi!

Easter Sunday in Estonia is usually celebrated with egg dyeing, enjoying a long lunch and the traditional Easter egg hunt. It's common to decorate your own eggs. Typically the eggs are painted with natural dyes like onion skins, beetroot juice or spinach and then put in a basket as a centrepiece on the table.

Two of the most popular games played at Easter in Estonia is 'egg knocking' and 'egg rolling'. Both games require you to crack your opponent's eggs and the last one standing wins. According to the Estonian Folk Calendar, the colours of the eggs have meaning: pink means (gentle), green (hope), blue (fidelity), yellow (falsehood), and grey (balance). Girls would let the boys choose an Easter egg and depending on which they chose, the girls would then be able to judge their personalities.

Egg rolling is particularly popular in Setomaa as seen in this video.

Friday, 15 April 2022

Our thoughts are with Ukraine this Easter

As we prepare to celebrate Easter it's difficult to fully enjoy the festivities knowing that war is still raging in Ukraine. We've all seen the destruction and devastation Russia has inflicted upon the Ukrainian people but their spirit is unwavering. Ukraine must win this war, they must prevail and good must triumph over evil. 

Many things have emerged since the war began, namely the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people. They have shown extraordinary bravery and determination as they fight for their country's existence. Their spirit and resolve is to be admired. The support for Ukraine has been fantastic. Military and humanitarian aid has been pouring in from all over the world, people have taken to the streets in protest of the invasion, there have been so many displays of solidarity.. Governments, businesses and private citizens alike have all been generous with their time, goods and money. There have been many acts of kindness reported about people taking the initative and doing what they can to help Ukraine. People care.

Estonia has been doing an excellent job from the start in supporting Ukraine. Estonia has provided more military aid to Ukraine than France and Germany because Estonia has always understood the situation. They 'get it' unlike many other western leaders who naïvely misjudged Russia and were slow to act.

Estonia has now accepted over 33,000 war refugees from Ukraine. The people are welcome in Estonia and are made to feel safe and secure away from the horrors of war. At times there were logistical issues in finding suitable accommodation for the refugees but Estonians are good at finding solutions. When hotels filled up, the government chartered a cruise ship. 

Almost half of the refugees who arrived in Estonia are children. Last Monday a new Ukrainian school opened in Tallinn to support their educational needs. It's the only school in Estonia where so many Ukrainian students can study together in the one place.

Ukrainian women are finding employment in Estonia in teaching, nursing and through a new website launched by the Estonian Unemployment Insurance Fund (Eesti Töötukassa).

Easter is an important date on the Ukrainian calendar but sadly for many, it won't be a happy ocassion this year. May the spirit of Ukraine continue to shine and may those who are suffering find peace soon. 

Monday, 11 April 2022

Tennis stars Kaia Kanepi and Anett Kontaveit feature on new stamp

 100 years of the Estonian Tennis Association / Eesti Tennise Liit 100. 

The stamp can be purchased online at Omniva here.

Immigrants From Europe In Australia (1948)

Life would have been something like this when my Estonian grandparents first emigrated to Australia.

Friday, 8 April 2022

Kaja Kallas stands out as a strong EU leader in support of Ukraine

I'm very proud that Kaja Kallas is the Prime Minister of Estonia. From the beginning of the war in Ukraine she has shown strong leadership qualities, the courage of her convictions and unwavering support for Ukraine whilst many other EU leaders have been equivocal. Ukraine is a European country that deserves to be part of the European Union and NATO. Once this war is over Ukraine will build up its defence forces to ensure they never have to suffer these atrocites committed by Russia ever again. 

Sunday, 3 April 2022

'Apteeker Melchior' to premier on April 11

If you enjoy reading Indrek Hargla's medieval novels then no doubt you'll be keen to watch the film. Apteeker Melchior will premier at the Tallinn's Cinamon cinema on April 11.

Tickets can be purchased online here; Cinamon Eesti