Estonia’s Chargé d’Affaires as guest of honour
Rasmus Lumi, Chargé d’Affaires for Estonia in Canada, visited Alberta from Ottawa November 16-18, on a tour organized by the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society. He was the guest of honour at each of the three Alberta premieres of the documentary film Alberta’s Estonians. Because the members of the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society are widely spread throughout the province, it was most practical to hold a separate premiere of the film in each geographical region: Calgary, Red Deer and Edmonton.
Thus, Rasmus Lumi had a grand opportunity to meet, among others, many descendants of Estonian pioneers, a first for him, and to learn about their background from watching the highly acclaimed documentary DVD Alberta’s Estonians. In turn Albertans were honoured to meet Rasmus Lumi and to host him as the official Estonian government representative at this unique tri-partite event.
Polar Bear Entertainment Inc. was initiated into the AEHS documentary project in early Spring 2007 for their professional film production expertise. As the staff had no previous knowledge of Estonian history or culture, a considerable amount of AEHS time was required to ensure accuracy. All together, one and a half years of steady volunteer effort brought the DVD to a timely conclusion in September 2007. Thanks are due to many, including two main funding agencies (National Estonian Foundation and the Community Initiatives Program of the Alberta Government) plus hundreds of hours of effort, travel and vigilance mainly by Dave Kiil, assisted by Eda McClung, Bob Kingsep, Helgi Leesment and several others.
This 30 minute, professionally produced DVD was first shown at the 2007 West Coast Estonian Days festival in Los Angeles in August where it was very well received by North Americans as well as by visitors from Estonia. Next it formed part of the 2007 EstDocs Estonian Documentary Film Festival in Toronto in October. It was the only Canadian made film at that event. More information about the film is available online at www.aehs.ca.
Calgary and Red Deer premieres
In Alberta, the first segment of the tri-partite premiere celebration of the DVD Alberta’s Estonians was held in Calgary on November 16. The emphasis in AEHS President Bob Kingsep’s opening address was on the reasons the pioneers departed their homes in Estonia and Crimea over 100 years ago and their struggles in finding suitable land for survival - land which allowed for their extended family members and friends to settle nearby. He also drew attention to the physically demanding labour initially required of the men in order to enable their families to survive the cold winters and short summer growing seasons. Rasmus Lumi was given two AEHS pins - for him and his wife who stayed behind in Ottawa. Jüri & Helle Kraav, Bob & Annette Kingsep and Peter & Helgi Leesment hosted the Calgary function.
The second segment of the DVD’s tri-partite premiere took place at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery on Saturday afternoon November 17 in Central Alberta, 150 km north of Calgary. Among those present were Michael Dawe, City of Red Deer archivist and Morris Flewwelling, Mayor of the City of Red Deer. Evelyn Shursen presented each with a copy of the DVD as gifts from the AEHS.
Loree LeTourneau, a descendant of the second Kingsep family to settle in Canada, presented a verbal tableau of the life of the pioneer Estonian women. The Estonian Chargé d’Affaires gave Jack Pallo a framed letter from the AEHS recognizing his family’s contribution to the storyline in the documentary. It was Jack’s late mother Selma Pallo who wrote diaries and accounts, parts of which are read by current family members on the DVD.
The organizers concluded “Mr. Lumi was a great person to chat with, he's a man with a vision, his sights are set high and we'll most certainly hear more about this young man in future years.” Arnold Mottus, Anne Cowick and Liia Herman hosted the Red Deer event.
On the third day, November 18, Rasmus Lumi, along with the event, reached the provincial capital, 150 km north of Red Deer. It was another successful gathering and reconnected many Edmonton area Estonians. This DVD premiere was dedicated to the post WW II immigrants who brought renewed energy to existing Estonian communities, forming long-lasting Estonian societies in Edmonton and Calgary. Bob Kingsep asked Eda McClung to speak on the recognition of “immigrants who carried the torch while the rest of us were too busy growing up to realize the gift that we had been given.”
Mr. Lumi was presented with a gift copy of the DVD despite the fact that he had just seen it four times within the last four days. In his remarks, he noted that he knew of no other Estonian group who has made a professional documentation of its own history. He paid tribute to AEHS for this significant accomplishment and said he had enjoyed meeting in person many of those who appeared on the DVD. Eda McClung and Dave Kiil hosted the Edmonton event.
Over 70 people attended the three-part Alberta event. At each location there were opportunities to chat with other attendees about the professionally produced film while nibbling on elegant finger foods or sipping a glass of wine. Tables were exquisitely decorated with Estonian themes in honour of both the official Estonian government representative’s presence and the series of significant historical premieres. Guests discovered connections with each other of which they were previously unaware. This is a most welcome development and a reason for the creation of the Alberta Estonian Heritage Society. Rasmus Lumi obliged all those who needed his consular expertise. As part of his presentation at each location, Mr. Lumi informed the listeners about recent happenings in Estonia and a range of consular services available to them and their families. He also brought a variety of literature as hand-outs.
This tri-partite Alberta event was a marriage of enthusiasm, pride, determination, efficient planning, professionalism, hard work and some luck, united with the presence of an interested official representative of the government of Estonia. All in all - a highly successful unique three-day celebration, in the spirit of traditional Estonian weddings of yore which, as everyone knows, properly lasted three days.
Alberta’s Estonians DVD documentary series of premieres in Alberta