Eesti Elu
Kingstonian Estonians celebrate fifth annual Wolfe Island picnic
Archived Articles 14 Aug 2009 Peeter BushEesti Elu
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Kingstonian Estonians held their fifth annual Suvine Koosbiibimine on Saturday, August 8, 2009.

As in past years, the Taavet sisters graciously provided the use of their cottage on Wolfe Island which is a scenic short ferry ride from historic picturesque downtown Kingston. Fortunately the weather was ideal that day even though this has been the wettest, most miserable summer in Ontario for many years.

As usual the “pot luck” tables were groaning with all sorts of tasty Estonian dishes. Truly a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. I joked with Anu and Eva Taavet that their main table was getting to be too short when they were forced to move all the various rye breads to their own side table.

Musical entertainment was provided by dr. Ülle Baum from the Ottawa Estonian embassy with her accordion. She taught a lively Estonian dance and helped with the teaching of songs in Estonian. Famous popular singer Andres Raudsepp came again with his guitar and mellow voice. As usual Eva Eichenbaum Barnes was mistress of ceremonies.

Attendance was up again from the previous year so there were several new faces, including the entire staff of the Ottawa embassy with their families. Four generations of people with various Estonian backgrounds attended. Unlike most other Estonian gatherings at this one very little Estonian was heard. Some reading this may grumble that without the language it wasn’t an Estonian gathering at all even though the event concluded with the singing of Estonia’s national anthem under the blue, black and white flag flapping proudly high above.

Perhaps they are right. Roughly half of the participants were married to non-Estonians and few of the younger generation could speak the language. Nevertheless, everyone enjoyed themselves, wanted to be there, and there were no linguistic tensions or generational conflicts about Estonian nationalism unlike some past events elsewhere. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that this was a gathering of people with some connection either through blood or marriage with Estonia that simply wanted to get together for an enjoyable summer outing with people having similar backgrounds.

This is what the future seems to hold for most people with Estonian heritage outside of the Toronto area and it is not necessarily a bad thing. However, judging from the pictures in this paper in the last few years even Toronto seems to be having difficulties getting people, particularly younger people, to attend “all-Estonian language” functions.

Kingstonian Estonians group was formed a few years ago primarily on the initiative of Eva Eichenbaum Barnes who put an advertisement into the local English language newspapers looking for fellow Estonians or people with an Estonian background that were interested in their heritage. The response, especially from that generation born outside Estonia was overwhelming. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned here for other communities.

Many thanks to the organizers for a thoroughly enjoyable and successful event.
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