London Estonian Society, one of the oldest expat Estonian societies in the world, is delighted to celebrate their 100th anniversary this year on the 7th of July. The Society has been active throughout the Republic’s establishment years, occupation decades and after the regained independence years, bringing together Estonians living in the United Kingdom, and continuing to uphold Estonian traditions.
Founded in 1921 in the newly formed Republic of Estonia Embassy, South Kensington, London, the embassy allocated a room to the society, which quickly became a meeting hub for all Estonian nationals in the United Kingdom as well as those visiting, such as Estonian sailors. Written in a 1938 log: “The Society is offering a comfortable and warm space for all members to listen to the radio together, use the library and read magazines, and spend time in each other’s company playing parlour games.”
Throughout the century the Society has been active in bringing together the Estonians living in and around London. Encouraging the preservation and celebration of Estonian traditions and introducing the Estonian cultural quaintness to others. The Society has always offered opportunities to connect and introduce Estonians living in the UK to those briefly visiting or looking to stay for longer.
As the Society’s 1952-1963 Chairman, High Priest Nigul Hindo said: ‘What is the real aim of becoming a member of a society? It is the same as being a citizen. It is to become the beating heart of the nation and to be an active element in its lifecycle. If people stop actively partaking in their active national social life, then there will be no nation.” This has been the main aim of the London Estonian Society throughout the century – to keep alive the flame of the Estonian soul and heart, to uphold the Estonian traditions even when far from home.
London Estonian Society has been led by the following chairmen throughout the last century: Johan Palmer, Eugen Johanson, Erich Sarv, Boris Jakobson, Ernst Johannes Kollist, Elsa Mändla, Magnus Kolk, Endel Aruja, Otto Pärnsalu, Juhan Pruuden, Arnold Ojasoo, Erika Pärnsalu, Helmut Heinastu, Tamara Maripuu, Linda Reinbach, Katrin Legrain, Artur Sepp, Avo Hiiemäe, Margit Luuka, Priidu Rebane, Ave Siilak, Evelin Siilak.
The honorary members of the London Estonian Society, who have contributed to the Society’s work for decades are Ida Lemsalu, Adeliis Beermann, Leida Laumets, and Aili Eistrat.
London Estonian Society’s main work these days is to organise culturally important traditional Estonian events, which help to bring together all Estonians living in London and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Some of the most popular events have been Estonian Independence Day, celebrated in February, Midsummer’s Day celebrated in June, and Christmas Party. These events have had of some of the greatest Estonian performers including Olav Ehala, Tõnis Mägi, Janek Kasar, Ivo Linna, Anti Kammiste, Marju Länik, Juri Homenja, Erich Krieger, Boris Lehtlaan, Karl Madis and many others. Additionally, the events offer a platform to other Estonian artists who live in London as well as the Estonian choirs and national dancers.
When London Estonian Society celebrated its 70th jubilee, the Estonian House in South Kensington was visited by the first President of the newly independent Republic of Estonia, Lennart Meri.
London Estonian Society is celebrating the 100th anniversary on 10th of July this year. Due to the pandemic-related restrictions the celebrations will be held virtually. Everyone is welcome to join using their smart phones or computers. We look forward to welcoming everyone!
If you have a memory, story, photos or videos of the London Estonian Society, or if you just wish to wish the Society happy anniversary, please do get in touch with us at email@example.com by 15st May the very latest. We would be delighted to share your story and content on the day of the celebration. For any larger files we would please ask you to use WeTransfer.
Written by Tiia Avastu, Chairman of Estonian Society in London