Aili Vahtla

Gallery: NATO Battlegroup members lend hand relocating Narva cat shelter

09.06.19 ... Whether moving across town or across the country, moving day is dreaded by many. Moving 200 shelter cats and a handful of dogs across Narva in 30-degree heat? Surely a feat like that would take an army. On Thursday, the many volunteers of the nonprofit Narva Kassituba MTÜ (Narva Cat Room) got an extra hand from just that — six members of the British Army currently serving in NATO Battlegroup Estonia.

Couple to flee Russia still seeking to build life, contribute in Estonia

02.06.19 ... Exactly half a century after the Stonewall Uprising in New York, many communities worldwide are celebrating LGBT Pride in June, whether with a day, a weekend, a week or a month of events. Baltic Pride, which is hosted in the capitals of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on a rotating basis, is taking place in Vilnius this year. A writer and an artist in one Northeastern Estonian town, however, are keeping busy as always just trying to eke out a living — and to live in peace together.

Gallery: ERR settling into its new Narva studio

12.05.19 ... Next weekend will mark two months already since Estonian Public Broadcasting's Narva studio relocated from its longtime location on the arterial Puškini Street to a new space on the smaller Linda Street, in what can be described at Narva's own up-and-coming Telliskivi Creative City (Tallinn) or Widget Factory (Tartu). Earlier this week, ERR's Russian-language radio news editor Jüri Nikolajev took some time to show his English-language colleagues around.

Day in the Life: Natalya the British Army corporal

11.05.19 ... When you hear fighter jets fly overhead or see tanks roll through your small village as you are picking up your child from kindergarten, you might remember that a military exercise is going on in the area today, but your young child or elderly neighbor might be startled or confused. This is where I come in, and not just to explain about us, but also ask you about local life too. My name is Natalya, and I am a corporal in the British Army on a six-month deployment to Estonia.

The XIV Riigikogu: Why those seated were not always those elected

15.04.19 ... On 3 March, Estonian citizens elected 101 new members to the XIV Riigikogu in the 2019 general election, 13 of whom received a personal mandate. Just over a month later, on 4 April, only 92 of those elected were present to give their oath of office as MPs on the day of the first sitting. Where were the rest? And who had taken their seats?

Day in the Life: Tatjana the cucumber grower

07.04.19 ... Springlike weather has finally arrived in Estonia, but for me, it is 23.5C every day. My charges at work grow three times my height in as many months, and provide fresh vegetables — which are technically actually fruits — for families across Estonia all year long. My name is Tatjana Maftulyak, and I am a cucumber grower at Grüne Fee Eesti in Lohkva.

The Long Road to Laulu- ja Tantsupidu, Part 2: Europe and beyond

01.04.19 ... For many diaspora Estonians in North America, making it to the Laulu- ja Tantsupidu in Tallinn is a nearly religious pilgrimage — a must at least once in their lifetimes, whether singing, dancing, or simply spectating. For significant numbers of more recent Estonian emigrants, however, the Estonian Song and Dance Festival is still eagerly anticipated, despite the homeland being a relatively short plane-, train- or ferry-ride away. Ahead of the double-jubilee event, nearly three dozen choirs and folk dance troupes from Europe but also Turkey and even Australia are hoping to earn coveted spots in the festivals.

Day in the Life: Lena the festival organiser

31.03.19 ... While I am currently studying at a vocational school, that is the least of who I am, or what I do. Officially, I don't have a job. But in reality, I am a singer, a songwriter, a musician, and a performer. And since 1993, I have been responsible for organising a singer-songwriter and poetry event known as "Narvski Pri4al." My name is Lena Sabinina and I am a festival organiser in Narva.

Day in the Life: Raivo the blacksmith

16.03.19 ... After decades of working for someone else, being your own boss, while it demands discipline, is very rewarding, especially when you can use it as a means of promoting your people, your language, your history and your culture. My name is Raivo Jänesmägi, and I am a Seto blacksmith.

Day in the Life: Roland the young chef

24.02.19 ... My daily reality does not actually involve serving the President of Estonia and her thousand guests and dignitaries hors d'oeuvres, although this year marks the second time I've done just that on Independence Day. On a typical week, I'm actually kept busy juggling my studies at the Tallinn School of Service and my job working in my dad's kitchen at a hotel restaurant in Pärnu. My name is Roland Visnapuu, and I am a young chef.

The Long Road to Laulu- ja Tantsupidu, Part 1: North America

24.02.19 ... Over 6,000km and the Atlantic Ocean stand between North America and the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds, but until 1990, it was the Iron Curtain that rendered the Estonian Song and Dance Festival completely unreachable to diaspora singers and dancers. This year, more than a dozen diaspora Estonian choirs and folk dance troupes from the US and Canada alone are trying out for a chance to perform in the double-jubilee festival, and even those who don't speak the language know at least three words: Laulu- ja Tantsupidu.

Day in the Life: Tarmo the administrative manager

16.02.19 ... There are some jobs where your job title just doesn't sum up what you actually do on a day-to-day basis. What would you call someone whose workday could easily include repairing medieval props on one floor of a nine-storey tower, typing away at a keyboard in a tiny, off-limits office on another, and setting up to DJ an evening event in the Glass Gallery off a third? My name is Tarmo Põldroo, and I am the administrative manager at the Time Centre Wittenstein in Paide.

More than Russian or Estonian: Narva through the eyes of its own people

04.02.19 ... From government meetings and foreign media to Facebook groups filled with diaspora Estonians, Narva and its famously majority Russian-speaking population are popular hot topics that are typically magnets for strong feelings. Often, however, certain centrally important voices are conspicuously absent from these discussions: those of Narva residents themselves. ERR News' Aili Vahtla took two days last week to travel to Narva and speak to some of its people directly — about themselves, their lives, and their city.

Day in the Life: Tanel the history teacher

03.02.19 ... While I spend my summer holidays running a 17th Century pharmacy at a castle located right on the northeastern border of both NATO and the EU, during the rest of the year I'm more likely to be found teaching about that same century to children of a linguistic minority in Estonia's largest majority Russian-speaking city. My name is Tanel Mazur, and I am a history teacher at Narva Estonian Upper Secondary School (NEG).

Day in the Life: The Muradyan family, the cafe owners

26.01.19 ... The days are often long, and things can get very busy, especially during the lunch rush, but nothing is more satisfying than plates all but licked clean coming back to the kitchen, and our wonderful and supportive customers. And, of course, working together as a team. We are the Muradyan family, and we are the owners and sole employees of Cafe Smile in Tartu.

Day in the Life: Heiki the senior border guard officer

19.01.19 ... The Border Guard was re-established in Estonia even before the country's independence was formally restored, and I was there in uniform from day one. Even after the 2010 merger establishing the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA), I, like many of the other veteran members, have remained first and foremost an officer in green at heart. My name is Heiki Suomalainen, and I am a senior border guard officer at the Mustvee Border Guard Station.

Day in the Life: Tiit the sport facilities manager

13.01.19 ... One might think that, in terms of ski conditions, the more snow in the forecast, the better. The night before a major cross-country event, however, it's sometimes better to cross your fingers that the trails you and your team spent days prepping and grooming to standard don't see another centimetre. My name is Tiit Tammemäe, and I am the manager of sport facilities at Tehvandi Sports Center.

Day in the Life: Risto the sausage cutter operator

22.12.18 ... When Estonian families sit down to their Christmas dinners next week, many of their tables will include traditional staples like liver pâté and the popular holiday favourite blood sausage. While some still make their own, I make sure that their store-bought versions taste just right. My name is Risto Veinglas, and I am a sausage cutter operator at Nõo Lihatööstus Meat Processing Plant.

Day in the Life: Maiu the working student

15.12.18 ... Most people who know me associate me with my passion for hiking, and some might even think I somehow make a living doing that full time. In reality, I have a full-time office job in Pärnu, and four days per month I travel to Tallinn, where I am studying graphic design — also full time, but via distance learning — at the Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences (EUAS). On top of a few side hustles. My name is Maiu Lünekund, and I am a working student.

Toronto Estonian community to open new centre in 2021

09.12.18 ... On Saturday afternoon, the Toronto Estonian House, located at 958 Broadview Avenue, hosted An Estonian Christmas, known in Estonian as Rahvajõulupuu, complete with children's choirs, folk dancing and Estonian Christmas fare. Not for the last time — yet. But beginning in 2021, the Toronto Estonian community's largest holiday celebration will be held in a new space — the new International Estonian Centre in Toronto's downtown Annex neighbourhood, which is expected to open that May.

Day in the Life: Jaanek the ceramics sales manager

08.12.18 ... In a world where you can walk into any store and buy any number of fancy pots and pans or other home goods, it's not every day that a customer can come into your work and show you an item made by your company that is older than you are, and survived World War II no less. I take pride in being part of a family carrying on a hometown legacy that is over 130 years old. My name is Jaanek Kurs, and I am the sales manager at Siimusti Ceramics.

Day in the Life: Kreete the spa shift supervisor

01.12.18 ... Despite being born and raised in the summer capital of Estonia, my ideal beach season is only just arriving, as I am an avid winter swimmer. In the middle of the country's most famous resort town, this activity is my way of unwinding between shifts coordinating rest and relaxation for our many guests. My name is Kreete Kubre, and I am a spa shift supervisor at Estonia Resort Hotel and Spa in Pärnu.

Day in the Life: Loone the train conductor

24.11.18 ... A typical two-day work cycle may see me travel hundreds of kilometres of track, sometimes just within Tallinn and the rest of Harju County, other times across the country and back. The job involves lots of human interaction, which I love, and between journeys I have downtime during which I can read, for example, which I do voraciously. My name is Loone Astula, and I am a train conductor for the Estonian passenger train operator Elron.

Day in the Life: Birgit the pizza server

17.11.18 ... Like many university students these days, I split my time between studies and work. In my case, however, I study in one city, and live and work in my hometown. And while my job might be more typical on paper, thanks to our location, my regular clientele includes NATO soldiers — the same ones regularly featured in the news. My name is Birgit Kiipus, and I am a server and pizza-maker at Päts Pizza Café in Tapa.

Day in the Life: Kristjan the university project manager

10.11.18 ... I've reached a point where I can't imagine ever going back to a 9-to-5 that requires me to be at my desk all day. While the high season involves responding to a lot of small fires, so to speak, on campus, my job has also taken me to Sakha in Siberia and the deserts of Tajikistan. My name is Kristjan Klauks, and I am a project manager at the University of Tartu Narva College.

Day in the Life: Simo the analytical chemist

27.10.18 ... When I was still in grade school, I thought it'd be interesting to do something for a living when I grew up that not everyone wants to do. Now that I work in a research and development lab, no two days are alike. My name is Simo Lõo, and I am an analytical chemist at Cambrex Tallinn.

Day in the Life: Kersti the flautist

20.10.18 ... Younger me would likely be surprised by my life today, but so are many of my peers. Even my old university classmates would ask, "Do you actually earn money doing this?" Some were surprised I played that well. But I earn a living today doing what my family has done for generations — I play an instrument. My name is Kersti Perandi, and I am a flautist in the Vanemuine Symphony Orchestra.

Gallery: Students primary force behind excavation of medieval Kalamaja find

14.10.18 ... Earlier this year, news broke of an extraordinary find of medieval artifacts in Tallinn — not in the famous Old Town, but outside of its walls, in what is the now trendy district of Kalamaja. The thousands of artifacts uncovered at the construction site of the new Mündriku Residents complex at Jahu 6/Väike-Patarei 1 have since reached the hands of the Estonian History Museum, among others, but just two months ago, the priceless objects were still being dug up and bagged up by hand — by students.

Day in the Life: Erle the hatmaker

13.10.18 ... Some people work to afford their hobbies. Some work to get by but harbour dreams of doing something else. Some work just to get by. I am lucky enough to be able to combine all three and realise my dream of owning a small business and making a living doing what I love. My name is Erle Rander, and I am the owner of Ardiisia Hat Studio in Tartu.

Saaremaa residents recall Estonia's first collective farm with tenderness

03.10.18 ... Recent University of Tartu graduate Aivo Põlluäär writes about life on Estonia's first kolkhoz*, or Soviet collective farm. The folklorist and local researcher's interest in the Viktor Kingissepp Kolkhoz in Saaremaa goes beyond research subject, however — his parents also met and fell in love there.

Gallery: Gaudeamus festival brings over 4,000 Baltic performers to Tartu

25.06.18 ... After an absence of 12 years, the 18th Baltic Students' Song and Dance Festival "Gaudeamus" returned to the Estonian university town of Tartu, offering audiences a three-day Midsummer-themed programme filled with song, dance and light.

Gallery: Shrove Tuesday snowy, sweet in Tartu

13.02.18 ... While temperatures in the Southern Estonian city of Tartu crept up toward the freezing point during the day on Tuesday, making for slushy roads and slippery sidewalks, there was still enough snow on the ground to make for good sledding, and enough lenten buns in cafés to go around — mostly.

Toronto Estonian House shareholders vote in favor of new Estonian center

27.04.17 ... At a special shareholder meeting on Tuesday evening, shareholders of the Toronto Estonian House voted 67 percent in favor of the Madison Avenue project for a new Estonian center.

Enterprise Estonia's initial recovery decision was changed to favor Ermamaa

15.02.17 ... In 2012, lawyers at Enterprise Estonia and the Ministry of Finance drew up a lawful recovery decision for support paid to Ermamaa OÜ in 2006, however the foundation's board made changes of their own favoring the business before finalizing it that March.

Gallery: 1920 peace treaty on display for opening of new National Archives building

03.02.17 ... After seven years of planning and construction, the National Archives of Estonia opened its new main building Noora in Tartu this week. Following an invitational event on Wednesday, Noora kicked off a three-day open house on Thursday during which the public is welcome on guided tours of the facilities and can see the original 1920 Treaty of Tartu.

Gallery: Tartu Peace Treaty signed 97 years ago

02.02.17 ... On Feb. 2, 1920, representatives of the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic signed the Treaty of Tartu. The treaty, which went into effect on March 30, ended the Estonian War of Independence, finalized the country's eastern border and recorded Russia's unreserved recognition of Estonia's independence and renouncement in perpetuity of all rights to Estonian territory.

Reflections of an 'Esto': Estonia in 1975 and 2016

03.09.16 ... Anne Sarapik, the New York City-born daughter of two war-era Estonian refugees and mother of four Estonian-American children born during the final years of Estonia's occupation by the USSR, visited her family's homeland this summer after a long absence, discovering a vastly different Estonia than she remembered from her first visit in 1975.

'Sleep peacefully, you are free Estonians': Remembering the events of August 1991

21.08.16 ... Estonians of all ages and the world over recalled their memories of the August Putsch and Estonia voting to reconfirm their independence in the middle of it all, at 11:02 p.m. on August 20, 1991.

An old publication's new tricks: How an Estonian-American newspaper is compiled from Tallinn

23.07.16 ... Over half a century before the arrival of the Internet and social media, it was an Estonian-language newspaper published in Manhattan, the Vaba Eesti Sõna, or "Free Estonian Word," founded in 1949, which kept the Estonian-American diaspora connected and up to date on news from both home and the Soviet-occupied homeland. Nearly 70 years later, the paper's official editorial office remains located on the third floor of the New York Estonian House, but in modern e-Estonia style, editor-in-chief Kärt Ulman has been putting the weekly paper together from her home in Tallinn for three years.

Varnja: The people and potential on the shores of Lake Peipus

12.06.16 ... In a village of just 250 residents on the western, Estonian shore of the fifth-largest lake in Europe, known as Peipus ('Peipsi järv') in Estonian and Chudskoe in Russian, a mix of old blood and new — Russian-speakers and Estonians, Old Believers and newcomers — live and work side by side. Despite any differences, however, Varnja's residents have at least one thing in common: their belief in the village's potential.

Native Language Day celebrated by Estonian youth around the world

14.03.16 ... Despite differences in number of students, fluency, budget, distance, and other constraints, Estonian Schools as well as kindergartens, children's hobby groups, and other youth organizations around the world have made a point to celebrate Estonia's national language, whether on Native Language Day or all year round.

Remembering the March bombings of 1944

13.03.16 ... Wednesday, March 9, marked 72 years since the Soviet Air Forces began bombing the Estonian capital of Tallinn. Three days prior, the city of Narva had been utterly demolished, and over the course of the month, the cities of Tartu, Pärnu, Tapa, and Jõhvi were bombed by Soviet forces as well.
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