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President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is inviting expats who have made it elsewhere to return to Estonia. I heard a local Estonian woman ask, “Why would they want to do that? What Ilves and all those Toompea troublemakers want is their money”.  Considering the present state of global financial affairs, it is a fair concern and a valid question. Estonia -in the past twenty years -has come about as far as it did in the first republic’s twenty years, all things considered equally, but instead of facing the Red Terror and occupation by Nazism and the soviet aftermath since the Second World War, Estonia is today facing only a global recession and possibly the cultural shock of the internet phenomenon.
President Ilves commented after a Columbia University reunion (he had attended) how just about everyone in the room was financially much better off than he was, yet he was considered the most successful; after all, he was a president!   This is what Ilves is offering! If you are a successful businessman why not come to Estonia with your connections and knowhow and help us get through this tough time. In some instances we could offer you an advisor or ministerial rank and you could hobnob with the global business elite. You too could become the envy of your next class reunion!
Also in Estonia, a little can go very far. A small endowment by western standards could do mega wonders; consider Ernst Jaakson’s, or Harald Raudsepp’s university bequest or the support given by one western woman for the Occupation Museum.  (They have to come up with a better name, all I can think of when I hear the word occupation is bakers and carpenters etc). The point is we need to rethink our mutual purposes.
When Neeme Järvi first came to New York and was conducting the summer parks series, he was embraced and supported by a small coterie of well-to-do Estonians. Just like Estonia today, Neeme was resourceful, talented and took this initial assistance and made the most of it. There comes a point when talent outgrows its mentors; this is a good thing, though sometimes it can be painful but like parenting, we want our children to be better than we ourselves.
Neeme is today the patriarch of a global musical family dynasty and all thanks to those who helped make it possible. The same is true with Estonia. Estonia is a resourceful, talented and able little country and with a little help from her friends can make it to the top. There are many small countries that have made it to the top, England and Holland to name two.  
My wife Heli is always surprised because I am impressed with all the important people I have met or who have come to our Eesti Maja restaurant in Tallinn. To her, they are just people she has grown up with. Estonia is essentially a small town where, until recently, no one had any more than anyone else. But like former President Lennart Meri always said, Estonia is a small boat –sailing among other nations that are more like huge luxury liners. We have the option of turning around or changing course or policies that can change quickly and conform to changing necessities. It was this thinking that helped propel Estonia to where she is today, a member state of the European Union and Nato and, regardless of what anyone says, is still better off than at any other time in Estonia’s history.
While managing the New York Estonian House in the early 90’s, I met with Trivimi Velliste, the then United Nations representative from Estonia, to look at a building on East 34th Street, between Park Avenue and 5th,  a couple of blocks up from the New  York Estonian house between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. The problem then was that the Estonian government was paying a lot of money renting an office suite as a consulate and was interested in purchasing a building of their own. The real-estate market was down at the time,but Estonia had very limited resources. I expected the New York Haridus Selts would be happy to back the Estonian government in such a purchase, figuring this is why we existed after all, to make sure Estonia as a nation and people survives. Many of us, our grandparents, mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles who left Estonia in the 40’s stuck together, struggled to teach our children the language and customs and even sent them to Estonian school. We built Estonian Lutheran churches and set up an affiliate coed scouting program all in the name of preserving our heritage. We established a myriad of support groups and organizations, also just for this purpose, but as it turned out, Estonian independence created a barrier between them and us. Back then we were the rich relatives and we saw the new Estonians as a possible threat. In late1995 I drew a cartoon for the Vaba Eesti Sõna which my New York friends there at the time would not print since they believed I would only alienate everyone. I came across this cartoon again in my files and include it now.
I remember how the regulars at the New York Eesti Maja bar were upset because the new arrivals had taken over. The schools teaching Estonian were suddenly filled with new arrivals whose kids spoke better Estonian than our teachers. At first, whenever someone from Estonia arrived in New York, Lakewood or whereever, it was a huge event because everyone wanted to know if so and so was still alive or whether this house or that school was still running. We all had millions of questions. The new arrivals were, in turn, struck with culture shock and thought we were all millionaires.  It was probably the same when East Germany flooded West Germany.
What has not happened is, we Expats haven’t yet come to grips with why we exist today. When I was growing up, we expats were Estonia. We were the only hope for the continuation of the Estonian culture. Our archive in Lakewood was supposed to be what was left of our existence to history, proof we existed at all. But then, when Estonia suddenly regained her freedom, everything changed. But we haven’t realized it fully yet. Suddenly we are at the end of a single branch, while the tree, the cultural continuum is back on the Baltic and prospering as it has for over a millennium. 
We need to get to know each other better. We need to work together more and support each other whenever possible. Why not come to Estonia with your skills, connections and resources. You don’t necessarily need to speak the language, one of the best friends Estonia ever had was the United States Ambassador to Estonia Frazier, and he was not even an Estonian.  Expats should look at Estonia as a resource, a European Union member state and by holding  Estonian citizenship, you also possess this EU citizenship, and who knows when that could come in handy.
Too often we only see them and us; instead we should think of ourselves as a whole. The Irish have done this, and they are even smaller than we are
Viido Polikarpus

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