Iryna Kurolenko, Second Secretary of the Ukrainian Embassy in the Republic of Estonia
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A year ago, an old humble cottage in a picturesque corner of Tartu, the Estonia's university capital, was decorated with a memorial plaque with inscription made in Ukrainian and Estonian. It states that at exactly this location the first Ukrainian national cultural association on the territory of Estonia-the Ukrainian student society of the Tartu University had been found in 1898. It was to this date that the history of Ukrainian organizations of Estonia is traced to evidence the close link Ukrainians and Estonians, in some measure making plain the roots of truly friendly relations and mutual affection. Evidently, no small share of this had the human factor, the kindly feelings towards representatives of this or other nation, the ability to coexist peacefully on the same territory in deep respect of the laws, moral and private life norms of the country that became one's second home. It is challenging to examine the place of the Ukrainian diaspora in Estonia just in this context. That is, to analyze what the Ukrainians of this Baltic country succeeded in achieving during the twelve years elapsed after the Republic of Estonia recovered its independence, what place they occupy within the Estonian socium, and how much they appreciate themselves as its integral part.
It is worth recalling that despite considerable distance separating Ukraine from Estonia, the Ukrainians discovered the land for themselves many centuries back. By leaving out the period of Kyivite Rus, when warriors of Yaroslav the Wise had founded a fortress at a place to become later the city of Tartu (which was renamed to Yuriyev denoting Yaroslav's Christian name during the times of russification), let us
turn to the 19th century. At the Tartu University, restored in 1809, quite a few Ukrainians studied with their number growing rapidly when alumni of theological seminaries were allowed in since 1896. Except the universities of Tomsk and Warsaw, they were banned for admission.
Assisted by S. Isakov, Professor of the Tartu University, the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Estonia succeeded in identifying the house, where participants of the Ukrainian student community at the said university assembled, and place a memorial plaque on the wall there. The one, in fact, is the evidence of the Ukrainian's aspiration during that faraway time towards national self-identification and setting themselves apart from the whole mass of "Russian-phonic population", which could not help but command respect of the Estonian neighborhood. Incidentally, the growth of Estonian self-consciousness also coincided with the period.
A spot in the life of Lesia Ukrainka is also connected with Tartu. In 1900, she visited Mykhailo Kosach, her brother, who was privatdocent (adjunct professor) then at the Tartu University. She even took time to visit the illegal party of the student community to commemorate Taras Shevchenko and recite several of her poems there. To mark Lesia's 130th birthday anniversary, the Embassy of Ukraine in Estonia placed a memorial plaque on the wooden house in the Kashtanova (Chestnut) street, which name sounds very much in Ukrainian style. "In my heart is present only you, my unique and lovely native corner of the world..." - these words were cut on the gray Ukrainian stone brought here from Volyn, the place she spent her childhood. The words were reiterated after her by many thousands of her compatriots decreed by fate to find themselves far away from their parental home thresholds. The plaques installed by the Ukrainian Embassy in Estonia with the help of Ukrainian sponsors adorned the ancient city, while the ceremonies to unveil them became outstanding events in the life of the country.
Taras Shevchenko also visited the land of Estonia when in 1842, on his way to Stockholm he had fallen sick. It happened to be in Reval
(present-day Tallinn) that the autumn days of his illness crawled. To mark the memory of the poet's sojourn a monument is to be erected in Tallinn, Kyiv's twin city - the agreement in principle on this gift was reached at the mayoral level of both capitals.
Ukrainian organizations also emerged in Estonia at the start of the last century. A copy of remarkable document is being kept at the Ukrainian Embassy in the Republic of Estonia presented by the local Record Office. The evidence in question is the application concerning registration of the fellowship titled "The Ukrainian Community in Reval" bearing the date of April 27, 1917. Filip Semeshko, college tutor, Dmyto Yuskevych, army captain, and Ioakim Shostack, college assessor, were founders of the community, which activities are still to be scientifically studied.
Having achieved independent statehood in 1918, before the W. W. II Estonia was, in fact, a multinational state with 88 percent of the population being ethnical Estonians. The situation has changed drastically during the post-war period thus defining the composition of the country's population for the subsequent 45 years. Reduced by 25 percent during the war, its ethnic composition was further affected as a result of mass deportation of Estonians to Siberia carried out by Soviet authorities with inhabitants of other regions of the Soviet Union simultaneously populating Estonia instead. Quite a few Ukrainians were among them brought in partially through the workforce enlistment for chemical and woodworking industries, shipbuilding, and mining. Some stayed after fixed military service. Many former convicts of the Stalinist prison camps, being forbidden to return to Ukraine, were resettled farther from Lviv and Ternopil in the northern regions of Estonia. There were, of course, those who as their place of residence had consciously chosen this country that was viewed during the Soviet times as a peculiar abroad inside the USSR, where one could breath and think freer....
In independent Estonia of today, Ukrainians are the third in strength ethnical representation after Estonians and Russians. More that twenty-eight thousand of Ukrainian natives reside here with up to 3 thousand persons with Ukrainian citizenship. Among the Ukrainian representation, there are people with citizenship of Estonia, Russian Federation, as well as stateless persons. The Estonian inhabitants of Ukrainian origin are considered law-abiding contingent of the population enjoying respect and affection of the Estonian neighborhood. Problems that concern so-called "Russo-phonic population", that is, inadequate knowledge of the official language, unemployment, citizenship uncertainty, undoubtedly, in full measure apply to Ukrainians too, especially to those in the north-eastern regions of Estonia predominately populated by Russian-speaking people or, in other words, non- Estonians. However, permanent Ukrainian residents of Estonia that had made their mind to cast in their lot with this country interpret positively the idea of integrating ethnic non-Estonians into the Estonian society, while preserving their culture, language, and national identity. They have natural attraction and feeling of kinship towards the idea of Estonian independence, piety to the symbols of statehood gained at last, native tongue, culture, and customs preserved at the time of total russification. The idea is certainly also approved by the Ukrainian organizations that number more than 10
in Estonia, of which the Ukrainian Community in Estonia is the oldest, being founded in November of 1998.
Estonia is mindful of the Ukrainians' support for its aspiration towards restoring independence during the times of turbulent changes in the Soviet Union that finally led to the latter's collapse. The Rukh support group rallied then by the permanent Ukrainian dwellers of Estonia adopted the attitude that was very much close to that of the National Front uniting the adherents of Estonia's independence in alliance, as well as declared decisively about their struggle for independent Ukraine. In this respect, it opposed the russo-phonic advocates of preservation of the "one and indivisible" Soviet Union that joined the so-called Inter Movement. The Rukh support group engaged attention of the Estonia's public on March 25, 1989, by its participation in the action backing independence of the country and dedicated to the 40th year of Estonians' deportation to Siberia. It was on that day that Estonia beheld for the first time the future national flag of the independent Ukraine to come that was handmade by Ukrainians of Estonia especially for the action in support of their associates there. Only two banners - the Estonian tricolor and Ukrainian yellow-and-blue bicolor flew over the crowd at the railway station Julemiste in Tallinn, from which deportation trains departed in 1949....This fact clearly shows the roots of deep mutual sympathy and respect of Estonians and Ukrainians, does it not?
Ukrainian organizations of Estonia do not shun the problems of their historical motherland trying to help Ukraine both materially and politically. The illustration of this were meetings of Ukrainians with parliamentarians of the Riigikogu, letters addressed to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and members of the Estonian delegation members there. These were intended to dissuade those on whom taking decisions depended from adopting steps against the maturing state that still learned democracy and independence, and happened in April 2001 on the eve of consideration by the Parliamentary Assembly of the issues connected
to stopping Ukraine's membership in this international organization. Evidently, it was the active position of the Estonian Ukrainians that disposed Lord Russell-Johns, the head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, to visit the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church in Tallinn during his stay in Estonia in June 2001. He met, in particular, representatives of the Ukrainian organizations of Estonia there. The talk about situation of national minorities in the country took the form of conversation about the need of support by the Council of Europe for the maturing independent Ukrainian state on its way to Europe.
Representatives of Ukrainian community in Estonia are not indifferent regarding the political life on the Republic. Vlad Reznichenko, the vice-president of the Association of the Ukrainian Organizations, and Leonid Chupryna, the head of the Ukrainian community of Maardu, took part in the election races for the Riigikogu (parliament). The latter also participated in elections for the organs of local authority. There are also many natives of Ukraine among the influential businesspeople of Estonia. They are Fedir Berman, the director of the Baltic Ship Repair Works, Victor Levada, the president of the Joint Stock Company "Levadia", which is engaged in metal trade, Victor Holinsky, the president of the "Viholin" Company that carries out freight transport, etc.
Today, Ukrainian organizations cover almost every region of Estonia with the process of their creations being quite active during the recent years. Tallinn, Sillamae, Narva, Pilva, Kohtla-Jarve, Parnu, Paldiski, Tapa - in all of these cities Ukrainian communities are registered; activities are going on to preserve the native tongue, culture and traditions with Ukrainian community singing, folklore and dance teams popularizing Ukrainian traits thus also enriching the culture of Estonia. The folk group "Zhurba", which decennary was marked last year, is a typical example. During the visit to Estonia of Volodymyr Lytvyn, the Head of the Verkhovna Rada, in December of 2001, the ensemble was presented memorable gifts from the Ukrainian parliament.
An important constituent of the work of the Ukrainian organizations of Estonia, as well as correspondent activity of the Ukrainian Embassy there, became the National Project "The Ukrainian Community Abroad" planned for the period of up to 2005 and the program of the Ministry of Culture and Arts of Ukraine "The Ukrainian Diaspora: the Way to Create Integral Expanse of Ukrainian Culture" worked out on its basis. Proper weight is also given to the results of the World Forum of Ukrainians, where Ukrainian community of Estonia had been represented by a large delegation.
The Ukrainian Community of Estonia maintains close ties with the World and European Ukrainian organizations through implementation of joint projects. For instance, on the initiative of the Association of Ukrainian Journalists the action "Caravan: Constellation of Europe" was held last year that started out in Estonia.
The effect brought about because of joint activity of the Ukrainian organizations of Estonia and Ukrainian Embassy in this country was the large-scale measures directed at encouragement of Ukrainian culture abroad. It is the revealing of fresh talents among the Ukrainians living in Estonia, and familiarizing the population of that country with the creativity of our people. Also as, among others, are the All-Estonian Festival of Creative
Activities of the Ukrainian Diaspora Children and Youth "Flowers of Ukraine" that is to be conducted for the second time this year in Tallinn, and International Festival of Ukrainian Song "The Northern Star".
The Ukrainian community organized several Sunday schools in different regions of Estonia. Last year, their activity was considered in detail at the scientific and guidance seminar "Sunday Schools: Roads of Development and Formation" held in Sillamae and Tartu. The scientific fullness of the seminar was especially meaningful thanks to good relations established of the Ukrainian association Vodohrai (Rainbow) in Sillamae with the Center of Ukrainianism at the Kyiv National University and secondary school #193 with agreements for cooperation signed.
Ukrainians of Estonia do not belong to the wealthiest stratum of this country however. Predominantly, they are representatives of scientific and technical intelligentsia and highly skilled workers, but they deem it their sonly duty to help Ukraine and its children in time of need. Owing to cooperation of the Ukrainian Embassy in the Republic of Estonia with the National Fund of Social Protection of Mothers and Children "Ukraine for Children", the Ukrainian communities of Narva and Sillamae render practicable target assistance to the Orphan boarding school and Children's home in Zhytomyr, and back charity actions of the type "Assistance for the Country School" by the Association "Ukraina-Svit".
Such important actions of the Ukrainian organizations are largely affected due to the successful cooperation with the Embassy of Ukraine in the Republic of Estonia as well as organized work of the "Round Table of the Heads of the Ukrainian organizations in Estonia". At the meetings of the latter the flow of events in Ukraine and trends of its internal and external policies are discussed, and just there common position of Ukrainians of Estonia is worked out concerning numerous events both in Estonia and Ukraine.
Highly important for national self-identification of the Estonian Ukrainians also turned out the inauguration of the single in the country Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church of Tallinn. Accommodated in the architectural monument of the 14th century, it was restored through the efforts of the Ukrainian community with the assistance of the Estonian Government. The opening of the Church as well as the museum of pysanka (Ornamented Easter Egg) became an outstanding event in the life of the country, which was marked with the participation of Mart Laar, the then Estonian Prime Minister. In addition, Anatoliy Liutiuk, the churchwarden, recently received the Order of White Cross from the hands of Estonia's President Arnold Ruetel. The decoration was awarded for restoration and revival of this valuable architectural monument. Incidentally, Anatoliy Liutiuk became the first Ukrainian of Estonia being presented government award of so high level.
The attitude of the Estonian State towards Ukraine was defined the most vividly by the words of President of the Republic of Estonia Arnold Ruetel: "Since Ukraine and Ukrainians always backed Estonia, in what follows, Estonia too will continue backing Ukraine." Ukrainian permanent residents of Estonia had made contribution of high standing in forming such a position as regards to their mother country Ukraine from this our friendly nation indeed.
Translated by Victor Mylovzorov
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