Jõuluvana (Santa) or verivorst (Christmas sausage)? What were our members’ priorities for this year’s holiday celebration? This year, both Jõuluvana (Santa) and verivorst (Christmas sausage) returned to the Estonian Society of Central Florida/Kesk Florida Eesti Selts for our annual Christmas celebration.

Nearly 40 members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) gathered together for our Christmas celebration at 2:00 pm on Sunday, December 11, 2016, in a new location: the Fellowship Hall at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, 10891 102nd Avenue North, Seminole, FL 33778.

Kersti Linask, President of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) welcomed everyone to our annual Christmas celebration and offered a poetry reading. Pastor Priit Rebane offered words of Christmas inspiration and a blessing for our meal.

Have you been good this year? Jõuluvana (Santa) knows who’s been naughty and nice! Jõuluvana and his very musically talented Päkapikk (Elf) led us in merriment. Some members came prepared with songs, poems and other entertainment to earn their gifts.

Kaie Põhi Latterner and Anneliis Kuusik in Kaie’s home and Maare Kuuskvere (assisted by Erkki Taada and Lisa Mets) in her home prepared the verivorst for this wonderful meal.

The meal was catered by the German Bistro of Largo (FL) and included a full array of roast pork, traditional sausages, mashed potatoes, spaetzle, potato salad, red cabbage, and sauerkraut (thanks to Anneliis Kuusik). Dessert included cake and Anneliis Kuusik’s delicious homemade piparkoogid.

Please join us as we worship together on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2016, at 2:00 pm in Trinity Lutheran Church, 401 Fifth Street North, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701 Phone: 727-822-3307. The service, with Estonian hymns and English sermon, will be led by Pastor Priit Rebane. A brief period of fellowship over refreshments follows the service.

Please visit our Events Calendar  or Monthly Meetings for events in 2017.

In the meantime we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and joyous New Year! 

Rõõmsaid Jõulu Pühi ja Head Uut Aastat!

The Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) kicked off its activities for the 2016-17 membership year on Sunday, November 13, 2016, in the beautiful community room in the Seminole Isles condominium complex that serves as the residence for KFES Treasurer Anneliis Kuusik and her mother Linia Elmend. Twenty-four members and two children (who enjoyed the swimming pool!) were gathered for the annual business meeting and fellowship over home-made goods that created quite a spread for the smorgasbord table.

During the annual business meeting, the members achieved these results:

1. Remembered in prayer two beloved members who passed away during our 2015-16 year of activities.
2. Approved the Minutes of the meeting of November 1, 2015.
3. Affirmed the full year of engaging programs celebrated in 2015-16.
4. Approved the 2015-16 Treasurer’s Report.
5. Approved an increase in membership dues from $15 to $20 per person per year, effective this year (2016-17).
6. Approved the 2016-17 Treasurer’s Report, which includes approval of the activities outlined for 2016-17. To view our events, please visit this link: Calendar of Events.
7. Accepted the Auditors’ Report confirming their audit of the 2015-16 Treasurer’s report and bank records.
8. Elected the 2016-17 Board:
President: Kersti Linask
Vice President: Lisa A. Mets
Secretary: Triin Karr
Treasurer: Anneliis Kuusik
Membership Coordinator: Marju Cabrera
Member-at-Large: Maare Kuuskvere
Auditors: Jaan Kuuskvere, Erkki Taada and Tõnu Toomepuu
9. New Business: KFES President Linask gave a report of her recent trip to the annual meeting of the Estonian American National Council (Eesti Rahvuskomitee Ühendrikkides) in San Francisco. She asked members to support the campaign to raise funds to help Estonian-American children choirs planning on participating in the 2017 international choir festival in Tallinn, Estonia. She also asked members to donate generously to the Estonian American National Council, which works on our behalf.

To help KFES meet its financial obligations throughout the year–especially those events requiring advance deposits–the Treasurer encourages all adult members to pay their dues of $20 per person now and, if possible, to include in their checks payment for reservations for the Christmas celebration/Jõuluvana+verivorst ($30 per person, $10 per child under 12), Suppi ja Võileiva Päev ($10 per person), Estonian Independence Day/Eesti Vabariigi Aastapäev ($40 per person, $23 per child over the age of 3), Music night/Muusikaõhtu ($10 per person), and the April picnic ($5 per person). Taken together, KFES is offering monthly programming from December through April at the modest price of $115 per adult. What a great bargain!

Please note: Reservations for our events must be paid in advance. There is no reservation without prepayment. We will post reservation deadlines for each event. We regret we may need to turn you away at the door if you have not prepaid your reservation because catering and space will be limited. We also regret we will need to set deadlines for refunds because catering commitments will have been made and need to be honored. We strive to provide the most reasonably priced programming possible. We appreciate our members’ support of the KFES budget and budget constraints.

The members are excited about the events planned for the upcoming year. We hope you will plan to join us if you are in the area!

For information about the Kesk Florida Eesti Selts, please contact:
Ms. Kersti Linask by email at kklinask@gmail.com
Ms. Triin Karr by email at triin.karr@gmail.com

THE ESTONIAN SOCIETY OF CENTRAL FLORIDA (KESK FLORIDA EESTI SELTS (KFES)) RETURNED FROM SUMMER VACATION AND 22 MEMBERS CONCLUDED OFFICIAL ACTIVITIES FOR 2015-2016 on Sunday, October 2, 2016, at 2:00 PM at Pier 22, 1200 1st Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34205; telephone: (941) 748-8087. We were happy to see each other again and discussed planning ideas for 2016-17. We look forward to an engaging new year with lots of good fun.

PLEASE JOIN US FOR A POTLUCK SMORGASBORD LUNCHEON AND OUR KFES ANNUAL MEETING, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2016, AT 2:00 PM. We will be gathering in the beautiful Community Room at Treasurer Anneliis Kuusik’s condominium complex, 7069 Key Haven Rd., Seminole, FL 33777. 


For information about the Kesk Florida Eesti Selts, please contact:
Ms. Kersti Linask by email at kklinask@gmail.com
Ms. Triin Karr by email at triin.karr@gmail.com



Foto: Kaupo Kikkas



Wonderful memories were created when the Tallinn Music High School Youth Choir (Tallinna Muusikakeskkooli Noortekoor) visited Miami, Florida, from Friday, August 26, to Sunday, August 28, 2016.

Arrangements for the choir’s visit to Miami (on their very first tour to the United States) were made by Jorge L. Viera, Honorary Consul of Estonia, Miami; and Lisa A. Mets, Honorary Consul of Estonia, St. Petersburg (FL). Waving Estonian flags and shouting “Teretulemast!” Anneliis Kuusik and Kaie Põhi Latterner of St. Petersburg; Viviana Paddrik of Ft. Lauderdale; and Priit Okas of Miami, who served as the choir’s Friday and Saturday host, greeted a smiling choir as the ladies approached the baggage claim area. Transportation whisked everyone away to their lovely accommodations at Hotel Urbano in the fashionable Brickell neighborhood of Miami. Once everyone was settled in their hotel rooms, Anneliis and Kaie personally delivered welcome bags that included Anneliis’s delicious home-baked cookies and a taste of Florida tangerines and chocolates and postcard souvenirs. Before shuteye following an exhausting day of travel, the still energetic choir visited their Brickell neighborhood shops and restaurants. Saturday’s activities, led by Ms. Nora Lemus and Priit Okas, took the choir on the Miami Metrorail to Dadeland Mall; after all, shopping is a must in Miami!

The highlight of Saturday, though, was the choir’s evening concert at the architecturally beautiful First Presbyterian Church of Miami. Two key individuals at the church made this venue possible: Mr. Ryan Ellis, Music Director of First Presbyterian Church; and Martin Mola, Facilities Manager. We are grateful to the congregation of First Presbyterian Church for offering this exquisite site to the choir. More than 100 came to enjoy the choir’s concert. Special guests included members of Miami’s Consular Corps: the Consuls of the Bahamas, Macedonia, Peru and Argentina and the Honorary Consul of Estonia in Lima, Peru. Also mixed together in the audience were members of the First Presbyterian Church congregation, members of Florida’s Estonian communities (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts and Lõuna Florida Eesti Selts), and friends.

Tallinna Muusikakeskkooli Noortekoor, First Presbyterian Church of Miami, FL, 27. aug. 2016. Foto: Jorge Viera

Tallinna Muusikakeskkooli Noortekoor, First Presbyterian Church of Miami, FL, 27. aug. 2016. Foto: Jorge Viera

The concert began with fabulous welcoming remarks by Kaie Põhi Latterner of St. Petersburg; those in the audience new to Estonia learned about our history, culture, our current celebration of the 25th anniversary of Estonia’s re-independence (August 20, 1991), and the importance of music all in just a few short minutes! The hour long program offered by the choir received words of praise such as these: “I’ve never heard such a beautiful choir until tonight!” “The young ladies sing like a chorus of angels.” “One can recognize that each girl gives her choir director 1000%” Our congratulations to Ms. Ingrid Kõrvits, choir director, and Ms. Jaanika Kuusik, choirmaster and vocal pedagogue, for guiding the choir to such great heights. Before the choir’s last song, Ms. Kõrvits and Ms. Kuusik presented the Estonian Honorary Consuls two beautiful gifts: a lovely book highlighting the history of the Tallinna Muusikakeskkool and a CD of the choir’s performances; and gifts of CDs and sini-must-valge magnets eesti mustriga to hosts Priit Okas, Anneliis Kuusik, Kaie Põhi Latterner and Viviana Paddrik. At the conclusion of the performance, following Estonian tradition, bouquets of flowers were presented to Ms. Kõrvits and Ms. Kuusik. A reception followed.

First Presbyterian Church of Miami offered the choir a special opportunity: to sing in their 11:00 am Sunday worship service. The choir sang alone and together with the First Presbyterian Church choir. One hymn was sung together in seven different languages! Mr. Ryan Ellis, Music Director of First Presbyterian Church, offered words of welcome to the choir and a warm introduction of Estonia to the members of the congregation.

With just a few hours left before departure to the airport, Estonian Honorary Consul Jorge Viera led the choir on a special excursion by trolley to the hip Bayside Marketplace. There the young ladies mixed and mingled in song and salsa with other friendly visitors to the area. After a pause for ice cream it was time to return to the hotel to catch their shuttles to the airport. Everyone should be as lucky as Mr. Viera: The choir serenaded Mr. Viera as their parting gift!

About the Choir. Tallinn Music High School (TMHS) is unique both in Estonia and Europe. From 1st to 12th grade pupils learn both regular academic subjects and music. There are about 300 students at the school, who all learn an instrument, singing, conducting, and music theory or composition as a specialty. The purpose of TMHS is to raise future professional musicians who will continue their studies in the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre or in a foreign music college. Girls aged 14-19 sing in the youth choir. The choir is very active with concerts and interesting side projects with professional musicians, choirs and orchestras, e.g., the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra, Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, Estonian National Male Choir, among others. The choir and its director have won several awards in international festivals and competitions. An interview with choral director Ingrid Kõrvits, published in Vaba Eesti Sõna, can be found here: July 31, 2016 interview with Ingrid Kõrvits.

About the Concert Program. The choir’s music programme contains very different pieces of music, from Estonian folk song arrangements to American gospel arrangements. On its American tour, the choir performed music from Finnish and Swedish composers. The choir has chosen pieces that would speak to the audience and offer an exciting listening and visual experience (several songs are choreographed). Audiences were delighted with the choir’s diverse selections!

The Choir’s Tour to the United States (Aug. 18-20 and Aug. 26-27) and the Bahamas (Aug. 21-25). The choir’s travels have taken them to Germany, Spain, Austria, England, Hungary, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy. This year the choir participated in America Cantat VIII in the Bahamas from August 21 to 25, 2016. Bookending the festival, the choir conducted its first tour to the United States. Three performances were scheduled from August 18 to August 20, 2016 and two performances were scheduled in Miami August 26 to 27, 2016. The choir also performed informally in the Maryland State House and in a children’s hospital in Washington DC.

Steve LatternerThis posting is written by Kaie Põhi Latterner, beloved member of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts), to let us know of the untimely passing of her cherished husband, Steven Lavalle Latterner, June 22, 2016, and services to honor his memory in July (Florida) and August (Minnesota).

Dear friends and family,

I lost my beloved Steve on June 22, 2016, very suddenly and unexpectedly. For those who have not heard yet, and to update everyone on the memorial services times and places, I’m sending this information.

I am beyond moved and overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, hugs, cards, calls, and messages I have received since the passing of my beloved Steve. Please forgive those calls I have not directly answered – I’m still having a great deal of difficulty speaking on the phone. Steve battled a total of five cancers over a 19-1/2 year period more bravely than anyone could have ever expected or anticipated. And he did so while never, ever, ever complaining or feeling sorry for himself. When asked how he was feeling or doing, Steve’s answer was always a firm “I’m fine” no matter how many challenges he was facing at the moment. While having a chemotherapy infusion on June 22nd, he suddenly told me that he felt “really, really weird” and within just a few minutes, we lost him. Some type of catastrophic event, such as a pulmonary embolism or cardiac arrest, took him from us, and even after a long CPR effort, they could not bring him back. I am so devastated over this loss, but I know that he is in heaven with God. We are all thankful that he is no longer suffering.

Steve was known and loved for his positive can-do attitude, his incredible eyes and smile, his gentleness and patience, his generosity and kindness, his clever sense of humor, and most of all his loving and caring ways. He was a hard worker all his life, which he accomplished with the highest level of ethics, morals and honesty. His love and dedication to me and our marriage was beyond anything that could be expressed in mere words.

In lieu of flowers, I have started a foundation to memorialize Steve and his valiant fight against the monster we call cancer: The Steven L. Latterner Memorial Foundation, at Wells Fargo Bank. With monies that we collect and raise for the foundation, I will keep Steve’s legacy alive to help others to be brave and stay as healthy and positive as possible while fighting this horrid disease. Although only in the initial planning phase, likely goals are for the funds to provide inspirational messages and signs in chemotherapy and clinical trial facilities, to provide education and information on the importance of strong patient advocacy, and to supply cancer patients with a wide variety of helpful and motivational products and activities that are so needed during these unbelievably stressful times. We are thinking of calling the foundation “Steve cares…” Any and all ideas and suggestions will be heartwarmingly welcomed. Donations in Steve’s memory can be made out to The Steven L. Latterner Memorial Foundation and mailed to our home address: 241 173rd Avenue East, North Redington Beach, FL 33708. Please contact me via e-mail for further details. You can also make a donation at your local Wells Fargo Bank by asking them to process a donation to a registered Wells Fargo memorial account. (The account was setup by Nakita Vizena at the Redington Shores FL branch.)

There will be two memorial services for Steve: one in Florida and one in Minnesota. The one in Florida will be at Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd located at 10891 102nd Avenue North, Seminole, FL (727-391-4644) on Saturday, July 23, 2016, at 2:00 P.M. The memorial in Minnesota will be on Saturday, August 20, 2016, at 1:00 p.m. at American Legion Post #398, at 2333 Wilshire Blvd. in Mound MN. His obituary can be read at the funeral home website at http://www.mohnfuneralhome.com/home/index.cfm/obituaries/view/fh_id/13726/id/3765507. I am eternally grateful to all of our friends and family who are helping us through this inconceivably difficult and painful time. God bless… Kaie

Four members of a Civil Affairs Team of the 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, engaged in a mission readiness exercise with members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) and the Estonian Honorary Consul in St. Petersburg, Florida, from May 9-­13, 2016. A mission readiness exercise engages members of a civil affairs team with diaspora community leaders to learn more about the ethnic experience of the diaspora community and to learn and practice cultural sensitivities. This is the second time a civil affairs team assigned to Estonia has worked with the Estonian Honorary Consul in St. Petersburg (FL) and the Estonian Society of Central Florida on a mission readiness exercise.

The program this year, coordinated by Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) Board member Anneliis Kuusik, was based on the model developed by Estonian Honorary Consul Lisa A. Mets for a Civil Affairs Team that visited in June 2015. The model was designed to introduce civil affairs teams to Estonian and Estonian-­American perspectives through multiple generations that live in Tampa Bay and return often to their beloved Eesti: those born in Estonia before World War II, those who were refugees with experience in displaced persons camps, first generation Estonian-­Americans whose lives have been committed to preserving Estonia’s sovereignty, and those who were children in Estonia when Estonia regained independence in 1991.

The mission readiness exercise began on Tuesday with a program led by Honorary Consul Lisa A. Mets at the Estonian Honorary Consulate at Eckerd College. A whirlwind orientation program covered Estonian geography, demographics, history with an emphasis on the period from 1918 to 1991, government, economy, Estonia’s place in international rankings today, language, educational system, cultural aspects (sports, music, art, and literature), and e­Estonia. A second presentation by Jüri Toomepuu focused on his paper, “Estonia, a NATO ally in peril.” Both sessions included good conversation responding to the team’s questions about Estonia. Additional Estonian participants included Anneliis Kuusik, Tõnu Toomepuu, Erkki Taada, and Jaan and Maare Kuuskvere. To introduce the Civil Affairs Team to Estonian cuisine, refreshments included traditional Estonian kilu­, lõhekala­, and sink­ ja vorsti­võilevad, kohupiima kook and Kalev šhokolaad.


In response to the team’s request, a language immersion program was offered Wednesday afternoon at the home of Steve and Kaie Põhi Latterner. Before class, a traditional Estonian smorgasbord (külm laud) was offered for lunch to introduce the team to these Estonian traditional tastes: rosolje, kartulisalat, rukki leib, skumbria, kurgi salat, seene salat, täidetud muna, sült, pasteet, õuna kook, and Vana Tallinn jäätisega. Having heard Estonian is a difficult language to learn, Kaie and her colleagues (Linia Elmend, Anneliis Kuusik, Kersti Linask, and Erkki Taada) demystified the language and made language learning a fun experience. After learning the Estonian birthday song, “Ta Elagu!” the program concluded with the singing of the Estonian national anthem.


The Civil Affairs Team engages in an Estonian lunch and language program with members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts), at the home of Steve and Kaie Põhi Latterner, May 11, 2016, St. Petersburg, FL. (l to r): Linia Elmend, Anneliis Kuusik, Kersti Linask, and Kaie Põhi Latterner with the Civil Affairs Team. Foto: Erkki Taada

The mission readiness exercise concluded Thursday evening at the home of Kersti Linask, President of the Estonian Society of Central Florida. Triin Karr, a member of the KFES Board, joined the group to provide her perspectives on what it was like to grow up in Estonia, experience re­independence as a young girl in 1991, and to see the progress Estonia has been making for more than two decades now. Triin and her American husband Edward have two children, both growing up in Tampa Bay bilingual in English and Estonian. The final meal of the program was a traditional Estonian Christmas dinner: verivorst, suitsetatud sink, röstitud kartulid, hapu kapsad, rukki leib, jõhvika moos, roosamanna, piparkoogid and sea kõrvad. A highlight of the closing dinner celebration was a presentation of plaques by the Civil Affairs Team to the Estonian Society of CentralFlorida and the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia.


92nd Civil Affairs Battalion, Civil Affairs Team presents Certificates of Appreciation to the Estonian Society of Central Florida and the Estonian Honorary Consul in St. Petersburg, FL. (l to r) Kersti Linask, Anneliis Kuusik, Lisa A Mets, Kaie Põhi Latterner, and Triin Karr with the Civil Affairs Team. Foto: Erkki Taada

As the Civil Affairs Team did last year, this team asked permission to recommend to their superior officers that future civil affairs teams assigned to Estonia be given the opportunity to participate in a mission readiness exercise with the Estonian Honorary Consul and Estonian Society of Central Florida in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Estonian Honorary Consul and members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida who have participated in this experience consider it an honor and privilege to engage in mission readiness exercises and stand ready to continue to serve in this way. On behalf of all Estonians in Estonia and the diaspora, the Estonian Honorary Consul and Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selt) express deep gratitude to the USA for its continuing support for Estonia.

Nearly 30 members of the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts) gathered for a conversation with Toivo Tänavsuu on Saturday, April 30, 2016, from 4:00 to 6:00 (to 8:00) pm hosted by and at the home of Erkki Taada and Lisa Mets, who also serves as Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia, St. Petersburg, Florida.

Mr. Tänavsuu is an investigative journalist with Estonia’s weekly newspaper Eesti Ekspress. Mr. Tänavsuu engaged in a Question and Answer session about current events in Estonia: Who are Estonia’s newest immigrants? Is the threat from Russia real?

Mr. Tänavsuu also is the founder of “Kingitud elu” (gift of life), Estonia’s largest charitable organization. In just two years, the organization has raised over a million dollars and supported 90 individuals seeking cancer treatments that are not covered by state insurance. Those treatments have given patients the gift of extra precious time among their loved ones, hence the name of the charitable organization. Mr. Tänavsuu gave a moving presentation that told the story of his mother’s courageous battle with life-ending cancer and that recounted the founding and current success of Kingitud Elu, Estonia’s most successful philanthropic organization to date.

Mr. Tänavsuu and members of his family are on a 12-day whirlwind visit to Texas, Florida, and Illinois, and we are delighted the Estonian Society of Central Florida (Kesk Florida Eesti Selts (KFES)) caught their attention.