Mina, eestlane: Sirle Sööt, , Stockholm
‘Being Estonian abroad is like a second full-time job: you have a double identity, belong to two communities, and have to build a bridge between them. For me, promoting the Estonian diaspora is a voluntary and passion-based activity that I am happy to contribute to for the benefit of my community. Passing on old traditions is a great honour, but also a great responsibility. I am excited by historical continuity and the challenges of maintaining and developing it.’
Sirle Sööt is an Estonian Swede who is the 15th and first female chairman of the Association of Estonians in Sweden, which was founded in 1956, Vice-chairman of the Estonian Scientific Society in Sweden, established in 1945, Chairman of the Stockholmi Eesti Kooli Sõprade Selts (Society of Friends of the Estonian School in Stockholm), Founder and Head of the Stockholmi Eesti Huvikool (Estonian Hobby School in Stockholm), Chairman of Club Estetic, and leader of the global Estonian culture festival ESTO 2019. She works as a lawyer at the Swedish Ministry of Justice, where she promotes cross-border digital exchange in the field of justice.
There are five children in her blended family. She was born in Pärsti village in Viljandi County. She moved abroad for love and she has lived in Sweden for 18 years. She does not like the word väliseestlane (foreign Estonian).
‘Every Estonian has their own reasons for ending up abroad – some move for their studies, some move for work. Some move for love – following their blazing hearts and courageous minds to lovers in other countries. Once you start a family, returning to Estonia is not an option in the short term. However, maintaining the Estonian diaspora abroad is a challenge and a conscious choice, first for yourself and then for your children – from the moment they are born.’