Archive for February, 2019

Far exceeding the attendance guesstimates of the Kesk Florida Eesti Seltsi (KFES) juhatus/Estonian Society of Central Florida Board, 71 guests attended the association’s celebration of the 101st anniversary of the Republic of Estonia. The weather and the setting couldn’t have been more perfect: It was another grand blue sky hot sunny day as we gathered in the lovely ballroom in the beautifully situated Feather Sound Country Club in Clearwater, Florida. Starting with cocktails at 11:00 am, the event was well paced to its 3:00 pm conclusion giving guests plenty of time to enjoy our engaging program, delicious lunch, and spirited conversations.

Lisa A. Mets, KFES asepresident/Estonian Society of Central Florida vice president (we decided not to elect a president this year), served as emcee for the formal program. She welcomed four distinguished guests who joined us in our celebration: Hr. Jaak Treiman, Eesti Vabariigi Aukonsul/Estonian Honorary Consul in Los Angeles; pr. Kaie Põhi Latterner, Eesti Vabariigi Aukonsul/Estonian Honorary Consul in St. Petersburg (FL) for the northern counties of Florida; The Honorable Mrs. Kairi Künka, Eesti Vabariigi Peakonsul/Estonian Consul General in New York; and Ms. Kersti Eesmaa, Konsulaarosakonna peadirektor/the Director General of the Consular Department, Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who brought greetings to our assembly. KFES was especially honored and privileged to introduce our beloved member, Kaie, as the Estonian Honorary Consul, St. Petersburg (northern counties of Florida); the Honorary Consulate was officially re-opened when Kaie took her oath of office on Friday evening, February 22, 2019, in her home. You may read the Foreign Ministry’s press release about the event here. KFES was especially delighted too to welcome back Lgp. pr. Künka, who had participated in the KFES celebration of EV100 last year.

In response to Ms. Eesmaa’s greetings, Lisa asked Ms. Eesmaa to convey the gratitude of Kesk Florida Eesti Selts for the recognition conveyed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Citizen’s Day, November 26, 2018, on the organization we know and love as KLENK: Kesk Lääne Eesti Noorte Koondis, affectionately called Kesk Lääne Endise Noorte Koondis, now 60 years old. Many KFES members lived in the Midwest and were active participants and organizers of KLENK gatherings. In 2011, to keep KLENK alive, Kesk Florida Eesti Selts hosted KLENK in St. Petersburg and transformed KLENK for snowbirds. Out of that the KLENK-IEP Caribbean cruise was born under the amazing leadership of Anne and Rein Luning. Many of us will be on the ship when the KLENK cruise sets sail for its third voyage on March 2, 2019. We thank and applaud the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for choosing KLENK as a recipient of this distinguished award.

Lisa designed her remarks around this theme: Why do we do what we do when we celebrate Estonian Independence Day? After all, the format of our program likely matches the programs hosted by numerous other Estonian associations taking place across America this month. Do we do what we do because it has always been done this way? What is the thought behind each element in our program? Lisa guided the guests through each step in the program with introductory remarks primarily focusing on Estonia’s history and culture. Kaie Põhi Latterner accompanied all of the musical elements of our program.

The first element in our program was the singing of the national anthem of the United States, not only because we live here but to pay tribute to a country whose ideals we share. Honoring Estonia’s spiritual and faith-based traditions, Monika Orumaa Craig led us in prayer, the second element in our program. The third element was a keynote address by Eesti Vabariigi Peakonsul/Estonian Consul General Künka. Pr. Künka delivered her address in Estonian; a printed English translation was available so all the guests could follow along. It was significant that pr. Künka made her remarks in Estonian: 2019 is the year of the Estonian language, kicked off on January 24, 2019, at a conference in Tallinn titled, “The Century of Estonian as the state language.”

In her remarks, pr. Künka noted that Mart Meri, a member of the board of the Estonian Institute, expressed a dream of “increasing the number of Estonian language speakers in the world to at least 1.5 million.” [Kesk Florida Eesti Selts is doing its part! Our musical program featured songs sung in Estonian by Rein Männik and our usual energetic Estonian Ühislaul/sing-a-along. Three of our favorite songs were enjoyed: Viljandi Paadimees, Ma Tahaksin Kodus Olla and Kungla Rahvas.] Pr. Künka concluded her remarks saying, “We have to continue working for the security and prosperity of our country, preserving its rich cultural heritage and keeping our language, all together, Estonians at home and abroad.” In today’s program, Kesk Florida Eesti Selts, celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, recommitted itself to doing just that.

“In Memoriam” is the fourth element in our program. In her introductory remarks, Lisa reviewed the history of the Estonian war of independence fought from November 2018 to December 2019; the tragedy of World War II on the Estonian population; and the ultimate sacrifice made by Estonian soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. All of our guests stood to honor our fallen heroes by singing together “Puhake Paremad Pojad.” The closing element in our formal program was, as always, the singing of the Estonian National Anthem. We stood and heartily sang with joy in our hearts and tears in our eyes “Mu isamaa, mu õnn ja rõõm.” Elagu Eesti!

A delicious lunch followed with fabulous service by the Feather Sound Country Club staff. Kaie Põhi Latterner then took over the remainder of the program. She noted that, as the custodian of the book, she brought the lovely History of the Eesti Kroon and placed it on display for all to enjoy. This was a gift to KFES by the author for EV100.

The precious book, The History of the Eesti Kroon, on display. Kesk Florida Eesti Selts. EV101. 23. veeb. 2019.a. Clearwater, FL. Foto: Erkki Taada

We offered a champagne toast to Estonia: Elagu Eesti! Thank you, Robin and Tõnu Toomepuu, for the champagne.

Then we had fun with the loterii: Triin Karr and her daughter Annika and son Logan drew the winning tickets. Thank you to all our KFES members for bringing contributions to our loterii table!

We engaged in our musical program. Rein Männik, our featured musician this year, serenaded us with several lovely songs, each with a story of significance to Rein.

Ühislaul, as always, was enjoyed by all who end up rocking, rolling and clapping along.

Though we didn’t offer a rahvatants/folk dance program this year, we concluded our musical activity with a huge circle of guests dancing the Perekonna Valss.

Closing remarks were offered by Aukonsul/Honorary Consul Kaie Põhi Latterner. As is customary in Kaie’s remarks, she had all of us standing at the end because we were born in Estonia, we were born to Estonian parents, we married an Estonian, and/or we love an Estonian. That covered 100% of our guests.

Bringing our celebration to an end, we adjourned outside for a group photo on the balcony and conversation that didn’t want to end.

We hope you enjoy our photos. Please plan to join us next year!

Read Full Post »

By Florida standards, it was a cold, rainy and windy day–just the perfect setting for our annual supp ja võileiv lõunasöök (soup and sandwich luncheon). Just about 50 members gathered together, and we were delighted to see old friends and welcome some new ones too! Everything everyone contributed to the luncheon was simply Esto-so-delicious! A highlight of the afternoon in what has become a favorite and customary activity for us was our ühislaulmine (group singing) energetically led by Kaie Põhi Latterner on the accordion. Though we have lots of great activities ahead of us, we’re already looking forward to this annual event next year. Enjoy the photos!

Read Full Post »