Estonian American National Council President Marju Rink-Abel and Washington, DC Director Karin Shuey were both invited to speak away from their home bases near DC at community events that celebrated 102 years of Estonian independence. Marju visited the Atlanta community and Karin went to the south Florida community’s program in West Palm Beach.
The Atlanta Estonian Cultural Society’s gathering was hosted by Kristi Allpere, president, and Aadu Allpere, Estonian honorary consul, at their home near center city Atlanta. The 75 attendees were a mixture of both newly arrived and long-time Estonian Americans, their spouses and children, and Estophiles of various backgrounds and interests. Some
Kristi Allpere (far left), Marju Rink-Abel (second from left) and others at the Atlanta celebration.
had driven 3-4 hours for the event. Interest was high and discussion lively after the presentation, which started with a brief historical summary of the origin of current Estonian American organizations and their roles. The focus of Marju Rink-Abel’s talk was the interest of the Estonian government in fostering better cooperation and understanding between Estonia and the large numbers (about 200,000) of Estonians living abroad. The government intends to adopt a program to accomplish this that is currently being put together by a global Estonian commission headed by the Minister of Population, Riina Solman. Among the over 30 representatives on the commission are two EANC representatives, Sirje Kiin and Marju Rink-Abel. In response to questions, she directed people to EANC’s website and Vaba Eesti Sõna (links below) to keep up with events and opportunities to learn and visit Estonia.
Karin introduced EANC’s work to an audience of about 80 people at a festive event hosted by the Estonian National Association of South Florida. She provided a history of EANC’s roots, starting with its establishment in 1952 in New York by refugees who
Karin addressing the South Florida community audience (Photo: Haidor Truu)
wanted to restore Estonian independence and to preserve their Estonian culture while making a new life in the U.S. Since then, the organization has expanded as the Estonian population migrated throughout the country. EANC has council members in 17 states currently and welcomes and facilitates community involvement by all Estonian Americans wherever they live.
Karin covered EANC’s work promoting cultural, language and awareness of Estonia, including support for Vaba Eesti Sõna (Free Estonian Word, the newspaper of the Estonian American community); films and TV series such as The Singing Revolution documentary, To Breathe As One, In the Crosswind, and a recent 4-part feature on Estonia by the PBS series, This is America and the World (that can be watched and shared straight from our website, estosite.org). EANC supports Estonian American girl guides and boy scouts, Estonian schools and summer camps, and festivals throughout the U.S., including ESTO, the West Coast and East Coast Estonian Days, and KLENK, the Mid-West Estonian festival. EANC also recently published the book, Estonians in America 1945-1995, which thoroughly covers the Estonian communities and organizations that developed throughout the U.S. as members of the first major wave of immigrants sought to preserve their Estonian-ness and support Estonia’s fight for freedom.
Karin mainly focused on the advocacy work she is doing in Washington and how Estonian Americans can get involved. EANC works closely with the Joint Baltic American National Committee (JBANC – www.jbanc.org) and the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC – www.ceecoalition.us) to keep Congress informed on issues and legislation relevant to Estonia, the Baltic nations, and the broader region. Topics of concern include ending Russia’s occupation of Ukraine and Crimea; continued U.S. support for NATO’s presence in the Baltic nations and Poland; upholding democratic values and institutions in Europe; enacting programs that combat Russia’s hybrid warfare and disinformation campaigns here and in Europe; opposing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline from Russia to Germany; and supporting the Three Seas Initiative to create strong north to south connections among the nations on Russia’s borders with Europe.
Estonian Americans can help with the advocacy part of EANC’s mission by contacting their Senators and Representative to let them know these issues are important. Members of Congress want to hear from their constituents, whose votes matter to them and whose voices have much more power than Karin and her JBANC and CEEC colleagues, who usually aren’t constituents of the offices they’re visiting. It’s also worthwhile to check the membership lists of the House Baltic Caucus and Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus at www.jbanc.org/house-baltic-caucus and thank lawmakers if they are already members or ask them to join if they’re not. For more information on how to reach out to lawmakers, or having made contact with an office, please write to Karin at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has all the information needed to make a successful call or visit and will follow up with them in DC. Working together from both the local and DC levels can raise the impact of contacts and have a better chance of getting results that ultimately reinforce Estonia’s security.
There’s a great opportunity coming up May 8th to 12th to take part in a major advocacy initiative by the Baltic embassies and JBANC. A full long-weekend program is in the works with a day of training and seminars on the issues, a reception, two days of meetings on Capitol Hill, and for those staying over the weekend, the annual European Union embassy open house day will on Saturday, May 9th. Baltic Americans and friends everywhere are invited to come for the whole 5-day event or just part of it. More details and information on how to register are available on Facebook; the event is called Baltic Advocacy Days 2020.
More details on this event, and advocacy in general, can also be found on EANC’s website: www.estosite.org, in the Washington Update section. There’s reporting on what we’re doing in DC, and past articles with advocacy-specific information. EANC’s Facebook followers will also get notifications when new articles are published.
Karin assigned homework throughout her remarks and EANC encourages all Estonian Americans and friends to engage with EANC’s work by taking these simple steps:
- Subscribe or donate to Vaba Eesti Sõna at vabaeestisona.com to help keep their presses running.
- Look at ordering a copy of Estonians in America, 1945-1995 at amazon.com.
- Call your Senators and Representative about joining their Baltic caucus.
- Mark your calendars and consider coming to Washington for Baltic Advocacy Days 2020 May 8th – 12th.
- Check out EANC’s website at estosite.org and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EstonianAmerican.
EANC thanks all Estonian American communities for upholding Estonian culture and language, and celebrating Estonia’s independence, in whatever unique formats work best in your area. We invite all communities to send us news and photos of their events so we can share them on our website. Please contact us at email@example.com to let us know about your activities.