Independence Day in Vancouver – Behind the Scenes
Archived Articles 27 Feb 2009 Eva VabasaluEWR
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Eva Varangu, Vice-President of National Estonian Foundation (Eesti Sihtkapital Kanadas) was one of the speakers at Eesti Vabariigi Aastapäev. Earlier I along with several other Chairs met her and she briefed us as to the function of ESK and what it might be able to do for us. It’s always an uplifting delight to meet an intelligent person who has heart and soul pointed in a clear philanthropic direction.

What the 100 people arriving at this event weren’t aware of was last minute concern about the Estonian and Canadian flags - where were they, were they ironed and whose job was it to hoist them up. Cut to two hours later when I said to Thomas Pajur, Chair of Eesti Selts, well so what if the flags didn’t go up you put on a good event. “Oh, I did put them up” he answered “and for proof I’ll go out and take a photo.” My camera went out for a photo shoot too. So that was Sunday.

The flags were another worry on Tuesday, February 24, the actual day marking the 91st anniversary of Estonia’s declaration of freedom. I told my husband enroute to the Baptist Church that we needed to stop in at Meie Kodu. To our surprise when we arrived at the community centre the flags were proudly flying in full national glory. “I have to go inside” I told him. Then I clicked over the wooden floor in high heels toward the thermostat that was reading 27 degrees Celsius. This must work like the car’s clock I mused so I pushed and held buttons for a while hoping to lower the temperature to 20 degrees.

Now move in a little closer because I have to whisper this next part and promise me you won’t tell anyone - you have to move a bit closer still - really close: the temperature in the room was dropping and the thermostat seemed to indicate that it was now at a default setting of 1 degrees which was a tad worrying as I’ve experienced frozen water pipes before and I can tell you people get kinda crazy when that happens. I called the 1-800 number at Honeywell and talked to the next Slumdog Millionnaire in India who noticed I was calling from Canada. According to him there was no such thing as a default setting and I should just turn the heat off for a few hours and cool things down when it got too hot. Easy to say when you live in a steamy climate like India. I couldn’t get the thermostat to budge, so we left with me having visions of pipes breaking, and the building complete with flag poles floating south. Since I'm one of the directors taking care of this building I made a mental note to check the insurance policy for water damage coverage.

Now we’re at the Baptist Church, Meie Kodu afloat or overheating is forgotten, seated in our pews we’re all entranced by Pastor Helari Puu. He sings two solos in a rich baritone voice and better still he preaches in Estonian and I can actually understand him. His voice is clear, the message comes from a true heart place. As he weaves his words with such mastery I’m overcome by the soaring feeling one gets when one is at peace and mind-dancing at the same time. Puu has a different style from Jaan Puusaag but he has the same proficiency with words and most important he is integrated and credible, in step with his words. After the service we continue social activities downstairs over coffee and feast from a table laden with scrumptious food. Cameras are snapping photos left and right. Informal speeches are made and more hymns sung.

February 24 is also Helle Sepp’s birthday and sitting next to me she tells me how beneficial sharing a date with Independence Day was to her family living in occupied Estonia from 1940 onwards. It meant her family could celebrate this special day without giving the occupying army a reason to stop a birthday party.

Our Estonian ancestors were enslaved for the better part of 700 years. How different our lives are here in this magnificent country. We’re free and that's reason enough to remember and rejoice. The 24th is also iseseisvuspäev, madisepäev and vastlapäev.
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