I am not sure what I was expecting when I signed up for this trip to Estonia. Perhaps a
cultural change and a look at a better way of doing things.
What I got was much more than this. The trip was packed – full of experiences from gutting
fish to making a ring out of a shell case from world war II.
I wish to cover what I learnt that is of relevance to my work and the key things I took back from
the trip that I found inspiring.
Follow this link to access my presentation –Estonia presentation
Forests have always been a place of refuge for Estonians. This is taken from a notice board:
We kept our sacred sites secret so that the foreign occupation regimes that started in 1227
would not destroy them. By remaining attached to our ancient perception of life, we preserved
our identity and remaining whole as people.This is how we preserved a bright silver of the
culture similar to that of peoples in the wooded parts of Europe and this has lasted for millennia.
One of the things I got from the trip was meeting people who inspired me.
We met a lady who had 5 children, had written a book about her local culture and heritage and was working with school children on bringing back their customs, songs and way of dressing, but giving
it a modern twist.
We met another lady who had 3 children and was the local mayor. She had restored their village hall and windmill. She said it had taken a lot of work – and after they celebrated with a community
party and a bonfire, and before the next project they will wait until the time feels right again.
There is little paid work in the countryside so a lady living in a 500 year old village set up a juniper syrup business which has recently been given funding from the EU. It was delicious to taste and the
business employs other locals and is successful. I was impressed by the resourcefulness of the people.
Nature and Culture – parallels between Estonia and Scotland
Bringing these thoughts back to Scotland, I see parallels of the painful past with the highland clearances and occupation by Russia. I wonder how we can encourage more of a sense of connection with our land and our heritage; to uncover elements that we here can be proud of. I asked one lady how she overcame difficulties with people saying that she could not renovate a particular building and she shrugged, “I don’t let people upset me, I always make jokes with people who make problems.” This is how they
managed to cope during the Soviet era. So I thought I’d look further at how they managed this
difficult time as I realised we could learn a lot from this.