This has been a week of commemorations and celebrations in Estonia and an opportunity for me to offer yet another “guest perspective.”
On Wednesday, I attended a thoughtful and touching commemoration in the lovely town of Tori to honor Estonian lives lost in defense of their country, including a tribute to American volunteers who came to the aid of Estonia’s independence struggle in 1918. A beautiful church in Tori had been restored by private community initiative after its destruction by Soviet forces after WW II and has since become a focal point of Estonia’s defense of freedom.
The following day, I attended the Victory Day Parade in Viljandi also recalling Estonia’s resistance and victory over foreign occupation and simultaneously ringing in Jaanipäev – St. John’s Day and Midsummer’s Eve – with the dispatch of Midsummer torches to each of Estonia’s 15 counties. The parade was festive and joyous. The military bands, including one from Baltic neighbor Lithuania, provided a musical feast. The audience, both Estonian and foreign, was delighted. Later that day, my wife and I observed the happy and hurried path beaten by Estonians to their respective family and friends’ Midsummer’s Eve bonfires.
Some of these traditions are very old and some are new, and both represent a reassertion of Estonia’s national spirit in a new age, where old customs are not forgotten and new markers are layed down to guarantee the independent future of the country once and for all.
I am proud of the role we Americans have played and contiue to play in this Estonian quest.