Global Estonian | A unique time for the Estonian diaspora
A unique time for the Estonian diaspora

A unique time for the Estonian diaspora


“TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER” is a very familiar phrase! 

But what does it really mean to Estonians globally?

Estonians live on different continents and countries, spread across time zones and latitudes. The cultures in which we live have shaped who we have become or want to become, how we see things and do things. Our motivations, lifestyles, goals, careers, and desire to belong are as different as the world around us. Some of us have found it easy to assimilate totally into the society where we find ourselves. Others find themselves still somehow deeply attached to our Estonian heritage and continue the work of preserving it. 

One often wonders WHY. I have asked myself many times over the years: “Why does this “Estonia Thing” never go away? Why is it still a part of me even though I have lived abroad my entire life (80 years) and am comfortable being a North American? A psychologist friend answered this question by pointing out that we Estonians are a tribe – a small tribe. Perhaps our uniqueness comes from that same small size — our instinct to act to survive has been intact for thousands of years. Estonians are a proud, stubborn people. Our history and rich literary heritage reinforces this characterization.

The generation of the 1944 Suurpõgenemine (Mass Flight of Refugees) carried with them the values, customs, heritage of the culture in which they were raised. They were determined to pass on to the children the values of a determined people small in numbers. Most respected these values. Some of us rebelled. We were the refugee children of mostly middle-aged immigrant parents, whose focus was to work hard and rebuild their shattered lives, and to give us, their children, better opportunities and the education that Estonians value so highly. Many of our grandparents regaled us with stories about their lives on farms and villages. These magical songs and stories and happy moments came from a mythical land – “Eesti” – a faraway place which, in the past, we could never touch or see.

So why is this important now? Growing up in refugee families did affect us, and as we matured and our families aged and passed away, we may have developed an interest in their in-depth stories and experiences – perhaps a bit late. But we also developed a deep respect for the trauma they faced and survived during those refugee years. Now we regret not having gathered more details about their lives and thoughts. But then, most adults did not talk about wartime memories and the pain it caused them.

Suddenly 80 years have passed, and most of us will not live to see the 100th anniversary. This 80th year is a milestone in our small nation’s history. 

We were forced to vanish from Estonian soil to survive and, because of Soviet slander, were also eliminated from Estonian history. We were seen as a threat because we were in the West and knew the brutal truth about the horrors committed upon a small people. The Suurpõgenemis’44 generation, approx. 90,000 people, need to be included in the story of those horrid war years when Estonians were also deported in massive numbers (ca 30,000) to Siberia. 

Memorials to the Victims of Communism/Deportations to Siberia, and those who died in Battles have been respectfully erected. Puise Nina’s beautiful memorial of a Mother and Child looks to the sea from a place where 5,000 Estonians escaped into the stormy dangerous Baltic.

In this 80th year we come together for the creation of a memorial statue in Pärnu, to be unveiled on September 21, 2024. This beautiful memorial statue will be the first major memorial of our plight to be placed in a large city. We are grateful to the City of Pärnu for their cooperation and generosity.

Most importantly, the Pärnu memorial is being funded almost exclusively by these refugees and their descendants in the countries where families eventually settled: USA, Canada, Sweden, Australia, Germany, and Estonia. Every Estonian family was touched by these historic events. One quarter of the nation´s total population was lost to executions, air raids, battles, deportations, and the Suurpõgenemine (Mass Flight) to the west.

Together We Are Stronger 

The Estonian diaspora is working together in each of their home countries to ensure that this Campaign of Storytelling and fundraising honors the Suurpõgenemine 1944 generation. Despite being dispersed around the globe, we COME TOGETHER to show our respect for the memory and sacrifices of our family and our homeland!

Because we work together, our children and the children in Estonia will learn about their common history and how they have all been affected by these events. 

The Suurpõgenemine 1944 project of sharing the story includes developing the Pärnu Memorial to the Suurpõgenemine. It is meant to create a bridge of understanding between all Estonians globally.

The Pärnu Suurpõgenemine 1944 Memorial will be a solid, beautiful, and visible reminder of a generation that should not be forgotten in their beloved homeland. 

Eesti muld ja eesti süda – kes neid jõuaks lahuta”- Lydia Koidula.

(Estonian soil and the Estonian heart – nothing can separate them)

Please continue to contribute to the Pärnu Suurpõgenemine 1944 Campaign via your country’s designated organization. Check the ÜEKN website here for how to donate in Canada, the U.S. and Australia.

We NEED your financial generosity to complete the Project and the Memorial by sculptor Elo Liiv before September 2024.

You are cordially invited to attend the 3 days of planned events in Pärnu from September 20 to 22, 2024. (Details to follow.)

Kristi Vuht Allpere

Chair of the SP’44 Pärnu Project

SP’44 Toimkond/ÜEKN, partnering with the City of Pärnu




Veebilehte haldab Integratsiooni Sihtasutus.
Sihtasutuse asutaja on Eesti Vabariik, kelle nimel teostab asutajaõigusi Kultuuriministeerium.