Estonian Symposium in Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of DP Immigration
The Estonian Studies Centre in Toronto, together with the VEMU museum, held a symposium called “Everyday Culture as the Keeper of National Identity” at Tartu College on September 20th, 2014. The symposium was organized to mark the 70th anniversary of the exodus of 1944, when over 70,000 Estonians fled from the Soviet occupation. Their journey to the free world was dramatic and filled with hardship and uncertainty. The first stopping places in Sweden or Germany were seen as temporary: the refugees hoped they could return to their homeland. Things turned out differently. Those who did not stay in Sweden or Germany moved on to Australia, North and South America, and England. A temporary departure became permanent exile; the price of escaping to the free world was being deprived of one´s homeland and the life to which one was accustomed.
The first speaker, author Elin Toona Gottschalk presented her newest book “Into Exile”. She also mentioned Ruta Sepetys, an author of Lithuanian origin, who wrote the novel “Between Shades of Grey”, and its importance in exile literature.
Vasilis Vasilas of Australija spoke about the collection of oral history and his published books, one of which was about Estonians. Latvian-Canadian Kristina Pauksens shared her experiences in preparation for her doctoral dissertation, searching for Latvian descendents in Siberia; Tėviškės žiburiai (Lights of Homeland) editor Ramune Jonaitis discussed the living conditions of DP’s in Germany and Canada, referring to Dr. M. Danys’ book about Lithuanian immigration to Canada; Reet Mae introduced the ongoing Estonian film project “Keepers of the Loom: Weaving Women’s Stories Into our Cultural Identity”, and invited everyone to donate to the project.
On the second day of the symposium the Estonians hosted the opening of the exhibition “Food: A Treasury of Estonian Heritage. Businesses and Factories in Toronto,” presented by VEMU museum.