When I tell people I'm Estonian, they often think I've made it up. "Where's Estonia?" they ask. I try to explain that it's a small Baltic state in Northern Europe that had been occupied for foreign nations for most of the last century.
Although Estonia is a small country, with a population just over 1 million people, it is a leader in technology, quality of life and green energy. Although I was born in Canada, I feel a certain connection with Eestimaa. I've visited numerous times on missions trips and (despite visiting in winter) loved each and every trip. Standing on the cliffs at the former Russian Naval base at Suurupi, I found the stories my grandparents told me coming alive. Sneaking out under the cover of night to avoid Soviet detection, saying goodbye to family and friends, heading to refugee camps in Sweden. It all came to life for me. I found myself unable to stand as I thought about the sacrifices my ancestors made so that I could grow up without fear of being sent to gulags in Siberia. It was a truly moving experience.
Last year I had a similar experience. Except it didn't happen in Estonia, in fact it happened just 110km from where I live right now. A documentary was released about the Singing Revolution, and I attended a pre-screening at Ontario Place. Unbelieveable! The stories of heroism and courage in the face of the Soviet Empire was so inspiring. I hadn't thought about what happened to those that didn't make it to Sweden, the friends and family that my grandparents left behind.
So THAT is why I am proud to be Estonian. That is why I call myself an Estonian despite being born in Canada.
Check out the trailer below...