Last night I finally opened and spent a pleasurable hour or so reading my fresh new copy of Estonians in Australia. It gave me much to ponder on, and I have continued to think about the various characters, events and times depicted (and where my parents and I myself fit in), throughout the day. I expect it will have the same effect on others of Estonian heritage.
Published by the Estonian Council of Estonian Societies in Australia, Estonians in Australia is a handsome slim volume. It offers an overview of the history of Estonians in Australia in an accessible and pictorial form. This is quite a long history, well over 100 years, with consideration of the different waves of Estonian immigration into Australia. For example, we hear of characters like Evan Lumme who jumped ship (having escaped going into the Czar's army) in the 1890s. Much of the volume focuses on the activities of the Post World War II migrants (mostly displaced persons, like my parents), and the establishment of Estonian societies and the accompanying cultural activities that Estonians love, including song, dance, language, sport, and scouts.
The history is there, written in plain clear prose (in English) and meticulously researched by Maie Barrow, the archivist of the Estonian Archives in Australia. But what really makes this volume are the beautiful photographs sourced from the Archives. These breathe life into the stories. In addition, although scholarly, what comes through is the author's enthusiasm for her work and tenderness toward her subjects.
In short, this slim booklet provides a good concise introduction to the history of Estonians in Australia. It is attractively produced and can be read quite quickly or dipped into or savoured slowly. It provides a valuable historical record for all those of Estonian heritage. In addition, it should prove of interest to their friends and extended family, as well as those interested in the making of Australian society more broadly.
Of course, the history of Estonians in Australia is far from finished. Since the newlyfound independence of Estonia, thousands of young Estonians have visited Australia, and some have stayed to enrich our communities. It also seems that an increasing number of young Australians are taking an interest in their Estonian heritage. This little book is also for them.
Estonians in Australia by Maie Barrow is available
from the Council of Estonian Societies in
Australia Tel: Iivo Tuul 82612574 or email
for a cost of $5 plus