Author: Karl Herbert Grabbi
About 50 Estonians from Chicago gathered on a beautiful Sunday afternoon on August 22, 2021 in an idyllic park located next to Gages Lake, IL to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of Estonia’s re-independence. The grounds of the park were decorated with myriad national flags and other cultural relics, which elicited strong feelings of pride and nostalgia amongst the visitors. The festive buffet offered guests delicious delicacies à la authentic Estonian cuisine. Rosolje and sprat sandwiches filled the stomach nicely and cold kali tickled the throat. The official re-independence day celebration program began with a sincere and cordial welcome speech by Liivika Koren, a member of the board of the Estonian Cultural Society of Chicago. Liivika wholeheartedly thanked the guests and talked about the connection between thirty years of Estonian freedom and active engagement within Estonian expatriate communities living around the world. She proudly stated that Estonian culture is flourishing in Chicago and that the society is planning a very eventful autumn and winter. After the introduction, Ms. Gilda Karu, Deacon of the First Congregation of Chicago, E.E.L.K. led a prayer and blessing dedicated to the future prosperity of the Estonian state and global Estonian communities.
Shortly thereafter began an eclectic cultural program. The folk dance group “Põhjanael” presented an awe-inspiring folk dance program that enthralled the spectators. During the well known dance, Labajala waltz, the audience was invited to participate. It was deeply heartwarming to see three-year-olds Estonian children dancing with eighty-year-olds, best described as a true multi generational cultural synthesis. The next performance group, the children of the Chicago Estonian School, sang “Kauges Külas” and “Eestimaa, Eestimaa”. The audience was brought to tears by the angelic voices of the children. The keynote speaker was the honorable Ms.Iti Press, who is a cybersecurity and economic affairs diplomat at the Estonian Embassy in Washington D.C. Iti presented the audience with background on the dynamic success story of Estonian cyber history and encouraged all audience members to actively take part in collectively building the future Estonian digital state. The day before the picnic, Iti organized an economic roundtable for the Estonian community in Chicago, where business, culture and cyber topics were discussed.
The last portion of the program was a fun, lighthearted trivia game, compiled and led by Anu Grabbi. Several topics of trivia caused palpable excitement and friendly disputes among the audience. After trivia, a magnificent cake made by Janne Dombrowski was served to all partygoers. The perfect summer weather along with amiable company facilitated a pleasant milieu. As such, many guests stayed for a long time to talk and reminisce about the day thirty years ago, when Estonia became free again!