The replanting of the new Freedom Tree in Elizabeth Park in Hartford next to the commemorative stone, took place on August 23, as the old tree had dried and was cut down.
The ceremony was attended by representatives of every Baltic State. The President of The Estonian Society of Connecticut, Jaak Rakfeldt, Ph.D. addressed the gathering. His speech, printed in The Harford Courant*, was introduced by Stan Godlewski/Special to the Courant:
The Hartford Courant, August 23, 2019:
“West Hartford, Connecticut August 23, 2019 – Jaak Rakfeldt, Ph.D. president of the Estonian Society of Connecticut, spoke during a ceremony commemorating Americans of Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian heritage in Connecticut replanting the Freedom Tree in Elizabeth Park. The tree is planted next to the stump of the original Freedom Tree, a weeping cherry. A commemorative stone says: “Planted on August 23, 1991, by the Estonians, Latvians, and Lithuanians of Connecticut as a living commitment to the cause of Baltic Independence.”
An overview of J. Rakfeldt, Ph.D’s speech follows:
It is my pleasure to welcome you, and to thank you all for coming here today, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Baltic Way, during which two million people stood hand-in-hand from Tallinn Estonia, through Riga Latvia, to Vilnius Lithuania.
Today we take advantage of the joyous occasion to celebrate this historic event and replant the weeping cherry tree replacing the one that was planted here on August 23, 1991 by the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian Alliance (E.L.L.A). The original Freedom Tree recently died and was cut down.
And so, we stand today in solemn remembrance of the 80th anniversary of the Nazi-Soviet pact, which ignited World War II, and which condemned the Baltic people to brutal Nazi and Soviet occupations, and to a half-century of Soviet annexation.
Thus, the weeping cherry tree weeps, as we have wept, for the millions of victims of the Nazis and of the Soviets.
Our ceremonial replanting of this tree today is a powerful reminder of, and a metaphor for, the constant need to replant, replenish, to nourish, and to cultivate freedom and democracy with its basic human rights and civil liberties.
Sadly, it’s clear, that these values are currently being aggressively attacked by Putin’s Russia, the successor state of the Soviet Union. Yet Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania stand as a bulwark at the Eastern frontier for the free world, on the eastern edge of the European Union and of NATO.
But most significantly, our purpose today is to gather, along with Balts from across America, who have also gathered at precisely this same time, to commemorate, to celebrate, and to reenact the Baltic Way on its 30th anniversary.
As we know, this Baltic Way demonstration led to our having regained freedom, and to our having reinstated, “replanted,” our freedom and democracy in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
* (The late Ed Valtman, was the first Estonian to win the Pulitzer prize while he worked at the ‘Hartford Courant’)