[UPDATE (Jan. 12, 2012): A link to two KLENK 2011 photo galleries located on the Estonian National Association of South Florida (Lõuna Florida Eestlaste Koondis) web site has been added to this article. Links to many of the authors’ presentations also were added today. Please continue reading.]
Setting the record for attendance in the 21st Century, 150 participants responding to the invitation to share their love of Estonia and Estonian culture attended KLENK’s annual Sõpruspäevad and conference in St. Petersburg, Florida’s Magnuson Hotel Marina Cove Conference Center, January 6 and 7, 2012. Co-hosted by the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) and the Estonian National Association of South Florida (Lõuna Florida Eestlaste Koondis) and held outside its traditional Midwestern location at a new time of year, old and new friends came together from 15 states (from Florida to Washington and New York to California), Canada and Estonia, and students from Augsburg and Geislingen reunited.
The program was tihe (jam packed). For the first time, sessions were offered mostly in English. Planning Committee members decided it was important to be inclusive to our non-English speaking spouses and friends. They also tested the hypothesis that English might draw participants from KLENK’s next generation, and it did.
To view two amazing collections of photographs of KLENK 2011, taken by the very talented Monica Kallas, please visit the photo gallery posted on the web site of the Estonian National Association of South Florida (Lõuna Florida Eestlaste Koondis (LFEF)). Please click on this link to be re-directed to the LFEK photo galleries:Lõuna Florida Eestlaste Koondis KLENK 2011 Photo Galleries.
To give KLENK 2011 participants time to travel to this new Florida location, Friday was planned as a travel day. The KLENK 2011 Planning Committee scheduled KLENK 2011’s official opening at 5:00 pm, Friday afternoon, January 6, 2012. Lisa Mets, KLENK 2011 Planning Committee chair, launched KLENK 2011 with welcoming remarks. The remarks celebrated KLENK 2011 — in 2012; with KLENK’s 54th program in its 53rd year. Yes, the numbers are right.
Õp. Nelli Vahter, Linda Einpaul, Loit Maripuu and Lisa Mets officially opened KLENK Friday evening with a memorial program honoring KLENK founders who passed away in 2011: Gunnar Auksi, Urve Auksi and Reet Ülper Maripuu. Their spirit and legacy inspired the weekend.
Two themes provided the framework for Saturday’s lectures and theatrical skit. Views and Experiences of Estonian Americans and Estonians in America in Light of 20 Years of Estonian Independence shaped the morning’s presentations; the afternoon’s presentations highlighted topics that are Distinctively Estonian. KLENK 2011 Planning Committee Chair Lisa Mets introduced the framework and laid the stage for each speaker through her introductions.
A welcome from the presidents of the two Florida Estonian associations started Saturday morning’s program. Tõnu Toomepuu brought greetings from the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts), which organized all arrangements. Arno Kallas brought greetings from the Estonian National Association of South Florida (Lõuna Florida Eestlaste Koondis).
Saturday morning’s academic program began with an engaging conversation on Responses to the 2011 Survey by the Estonian American National Council (Eesti Rahvuskomitee Ühendriikides), led by ERKÜ members Monika Orumaa, Kersti Linask, and Arne Kalm (the chair of ERKÜ’s new strategic planning committee). An article from the Estonian American National Council (Eesti Rahvuskomitee Ühendrikkes (ERKÜ)) is forthcoming.
Professor Ain Haas then shared his research findings built on interviews with Välis-eestlased (Estonian émigrés) who are returning to live in Estonia. The audience was fascinated by the interviewees’ colorful reports of their experiences. Ain Haas’s information in English and Estonian can be found through these three links:
Translation of “Läänest tulnute ootused, üllatused, soovitused” [Expectations, Surprises, and Recommendations of Those Coming from the West]
Tables from Baltic Migration Study
Läänest tulnute ootused, üllatused ja soovitused
Providing excellent advice to members of the audience—for themselves and their family members—financial planner, wealth advisor and Worth columnist Carina Diamond encouraged everyone to reflect on their retirement plans. This session provided a rare opportunity for individuals to hear from a financial planner on retirement planning.
Maintaining the program’s fast pace over lunch, editor Carl Orav presented the outline of his new book recently released in English in the United States and Estonian in Estonia, We Were Estonian Soldiers: World War II exploits of classmates from the Estonian Military Technical Academy. Carl’s presentation was well received as evidenced by the book sales that followed his session. Click on this link to view the outline of Carl Orav’s remarks: We Were Estonian Soldiers.
Sirje Kiin, the 2011 prize winning author recognized by the Marie Under and Artur Adson Memorial Foundation, kicked off the afternoon’s lectures with her insight into Marie Under, Estonia’s esteemed poet who sadly was never recognized with a Nobel Prize in literature. The outline of Sirje Kiin’s remarks can be found through this link to her presentation slides: Marie Under: Why Didn’t She Win a Nobel Prize?
Ms. Kiin also continues to be a columnist for Elukiri, which is published monthly in Estonia. Ms. Kiin’s February 2012 column mentions her impressions from KLENK 2011: Kiri Ameerikast.
Linda Einpaul introduced the program’s next speaker, Taavo Virkhaus, Conductor Emeritus of the Huntsville (AL) Symphony Orchestra. With the visual aid of DVDs, Taavo captivated the audience with three brilliant musical segments showing him conducting the Eesti Riiklik Sümfooniaorkester in 1988, 1990 and 1994.
In Estonian, Helve and Heiki Parts presented The Flower Vendor as a theatrical interlude. The skit needed no translation and absolutely charmed everyone.
In response to media stories about recent survey results of Estonians and their views on religion, Jüri Toomepuu explored the elements of maausk, including its translation. This link leads to the full text of Jüri Toomepuu’s remarks: Maausk, the belief system of indigenous Estonians.
Pulling the day’s themes together into one–An Estonian American working in Estonia at a unique institution situated in Estonia– Eric Sibul closed the afternoon with his lecture on highlights from the Baltic Defence College. Slides outlining Eric Sibul’s presentation may be viewed through this link: Highlights from the Baltic Defence College.
The dinner programs Friday and Saturday evenings featured traditional Estonian folk music, folk dance, and sing-alongs. Highlights included performances by Siilikesed, Ain Haas’s Estonian and Latvian folk music group from Indianapolis; and Saare Vikat, New York’s folk dance group directed by Liisi Vanaselja. Chicago’s Estonian House’s folk dance teacher, Estonian Sirje Press, led audience participation in Perekonna Valss. Sing-alongs were led by vocalist Enn Kiilaspea, key boardist Taavo Virkhaus, and accordionist and force majeure for both evenings’ programs, Kaie Põhi Latterner.
KLENK 2011 was honored to be joined by the Honorable Sten Schwede, Estonian Consul General in New York, and the recently appointed Honorary Consul in Atlanta, Aadu Allpere, and their family members. Planning Committee members felt privileged to be their hosts.
During Saturday’s dinner program, Peakonsul Schwede offered remarks and graciously recognized and thanked KLENK 2011 planning committee members Lisa Mets, who chaired the KLENK 2011 planning committee; and Maare Kuuskvere, Evi Kallas, Rein Raja and Tõnu Toomepuu, who served in the planning committee’s leadership positions.
Many attended the KLENK conference for their first time. Peakonsul Schwede’s participation in KLENK 2011 from its start Friday evening through its annual meeting on Sunday morning made all attendees feel they were part of something special.
Indeed, the KLENK 2011 Planning Committee itself wanted everyone to feel special. Supplementing the morning coffee break was kringel baked by KFES members Maare Kuuskvere, Kersti Linask, Ingrid Shipotofsky and Malle Sibul. Leena Aare, Maare Kuuskvere and Lisa Mets baked piparkoogid for the afternoon break. Traditional Estonian rye bread was a deliciously wonderful surprise at dinner Saturday night. Tiiu Slankis and Norma Jean Rebane made the lovely floral centerpieces.
Ingrid Shipotofsky and Monika Orumaa were in charge of this year’s KLENK loterii. The overflowing loterii tables gave the impression that everyone made a contribution! Thank you!
KLENK 2011 concluded with Sunday morning’s annual meeting. A record 30 participants provided excellent suggestions for future meetings and they took two actions. They voted to hold KLENK 2012 in Michigan and resolved to encourage KLENK, KFES, LFEK and ERKÜ to work together on future programs extending from the model introduced this weekend.
To bring KLENK 2011 to a close and to express her appreciation to planning committee members, program presenters and annual meeting participants, KLENK 2011 planning committee chair Lisa Mets hosted a champagne reception outside her hotel room on a point overlooking Tampa Bay and the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. The clear blue sky and 73 degrees temperature provided the perfect ending to a wonderful conference.
KLENK 2011 was made possible through these generous sponsors: Eckerd College, Estonian American National Council (ERKÜ), Estonian Society of Central Florida (KFES), Estonian National Association of South Florida (LFEK), and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Central Florida (E.E.L.K.-Kesk Florida). Jaan and Maare Kuuskvere and Lisa and Erkki Taada were private sponsors. Saare Vikat was generously supported by the NY Eesti Abistamiskomitee.