DECEMBER 2016

A new face has joined our Narva Counselling Centre team
Youth seminar and discussion events reach Pärnu and Haapsalu
Julia Polujanenkova: People had been waiting for Estonian language and culture clubs for years
Azeri students to showcase their cultural heritage in schools this December
‘Flight of the Bluebird’ festival and competition to take place in early January
Said’s story: "To feel integrated one needs to speak the language of the host country, get to know the culture and the law, and respect them"

MISA activities

A new face has joined our Narva Counselling Centre team

Joining our team in October was Anna Kuznetsova, who took up a post as a counsellor for local residents at our Narva office.

“What I’m doing in MISA is offering residents of Narva and Ida-Viru County advice and support on issues related to integration and everyday life,” Anna explained. “I’m also involved in the organisation of the Estonian language cafés and other counselling events.

Since I was born in Narva myself and have lived and worked here for years, I appreciate the concerns that the people here have. Helping local people is important to me - it’s something that’s very close to my heart.”

Anna graduated from the University of Tartu with a degree in Slavic philology. Thereafter she worked for a number of companies in Ida-Viru County, including for the last three years for a tourism firm in which she gained experience of both customer service and teamwork.

You can contact the counsellors at MISA’s Counselling Centre by e-mailing [email protected] or calling the free hotline 800 9999.

National series of seminars and discussions for young people

Youth seminar and discussion events reach Pärnu and Haapsalu

The series of seminars and discussions designed for young people is set to continue with events being held in Pärnu and Haapsalu at which the focus will be the regional identity of youth. The events are being organised by the ‘Open Republic’ Youth Association in cooperation with MISA.

“Seminars and discussions were held in Narva, Tartu and Tallinn in November, with the topics all being different, although with the focus always being on issues of importance to the region in question,” explained Vladislav Veližanin from the ‘Open Republic’ Youth Association. “It was great to see the young people who attended taking such an active role and that the topics they were discussing really mattered to them.”

Two events are scheduled to take place in December. The first is a discussion that will be held at Pärnu Co-Ed Upper Secondary School on 8 December, while the final event of the year will take place at Lääne County Co-Ed Upper Secondary School in Haapsalu on 19 December. Both events will examine the issue of local identity. They will debate the future of the two cities - whether and why young people should go (back) to live in Pärnu and Lääne counties.

The events are free for all participants. Information on registering for the seminars and discussions can be found online at www.or.ee. Event details can also be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/avatudvabariik.

The focus of the seminars and debates is the relationships of young people and their ability to communicate in a variety of social environments. Organisation of the events is designed to support contact between young people aged 17-26 and to help break down barriers between cultures:

Events forming part of the series are scheduled to continue until May 2017. A total of 700 young people from all over Estonia are expected to participate in the events.

Organisation of the events is being supported by MISA from the resources of the ‘Activities supporting integration in Estonian society’ project of the European Social Fund.

For further information please contact:  Vladislav Veližanin | Civic education programme manager, ‘Open Republic’ Youth Association | E-mail: [email protected] | Mobile: +372 5563 1777

Natalia Reppo | Head of Cooperation, MISA | E-mail: [email protected] | Telephone: +372 659 9840

Feedback from participants in Estonian language and culture club

Julia Polujanenkova: People had been waiting for Estonian language and culture clubs for years

Julia Polujanenkova works at Tartu Art Museum. She is a young, active, well-meaning, well-educated woman who decided to polish her Estonian skills despite already having a very good grasp of the language. Here she describes her experiences.

“I joined the Estonian language and culture club here in Tartu three months ago. I’m so glad I got the chance. I’m a 25-year-old specialist from Jõhvi - I grew up and did all my learning in a non-Estonian language environment. My first encounter with a language club was when I was studying at St Petersburg University, where foreign language clubs were really popular. I always wondered why the same sort of format wasn’t being used in Estonia to help people improve their speaking skills. Later I found out that there were language clubs in Estonia, but many people - me and my family among them - simply didn’t know about them. Now that I’m a member of one of these clubs I happily tell other people about them and what they involve, to try and encourage them to take part as well.

A lot of people who’ve been studying Estonian for a long time have a problem simply with how to start talking. For example, Russian-speaking people who live in Ida-Viru County and work in Russian-speaking teams often only have the chance to use their Estonian when they’re at the shops. It’s pretty hard to make Estonian-speaking friends. It’s no easier reading Estonian-language newspapers or watching Estonian-language TV shows, because the language they use is too complicated. So where do we get language practice? If you don’t practise a language you soon forget it, and it’s impossible to make any progress without it. But that’s where the language clubs are so useful.

At the moment I’m working with an Estonian-speaking team where none of my colleagues correct my grammar mistakes, and sometimes I feel like the language backgrounds we’re from are too different from each other. At our language and culture club meetings though we do the kinds of things I’ve always wanted to - we all get the chance to talk, with the instructors picking up on repeated mistakes, and we get to ask for help and advice when it comes to complicated grammar rules. I’m now much better at finding my way around Estonian culture, too, and the whole time we’re together at the club the atmosphere’s really friendly.

Apart from language practice, we also take part in different cultural events and pay visits to cultural institutions and the like. As a group, we and our families have been to the recently opened Estonian National Museum together, we’ve made Estonian food, we’ve been to the theatre, we’ve listened to the Grammy-winning Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, we’ve played board games and lots of other things as well. All of this has helped me fill in that gap in my language-learning where I needed the simple, everyday sort of vocab I hadn’t used since I left school. I’ve also - finally! - started following grammar rules, which have always been my bugbear.

A couple of days ago one of my colleagues sent an e-mail to everyone in the company with the subject line ‘Riia, mu arm’ /Riga, My Beloved/, and it’s only thanks to the language club that I know it’s the name of a legendary Estonian punk song. It’s a really good feeling to know that I can now understand the extra meanings that words have.”

The Estonian language and culture club is a place where people can practise their Estonian and overcome their communication issues. It is designed primarily for those who already speak some Estonian but need encouragement and recognition in order to communicate in the language spontaneously and fluently. A total of 60 Estonian language and culture clubs are being opened in Tallinn, Tartu, Sillamäe, Jõhvi, Kohtla-Järve, Ahtme, Narva and Pärnu in 2016 and 2017. Club meetings and activities are being organised until the end of 2017 by Mitteldorf OÜ, Keelepisik OÜ, ImmiSchool - Uusimmigrantide Koolituskeskus OÜ and Change Partners OÜ.

Estonian language and culture club activities are supported by MISA from the resources of the ‘Activities supporting integration in Estonian society’ project of the European Social Fund.

For further information please contact: Jana Tondi | Head of Language and Cultural Immersion, MISA | E-mail: [email protected] | Telephone: +372 659 9069

National culture association events

Azeri students to showcase their cultural heritage in schools this December

The ‘Ajdan’ Azerbaijani Cultural Centre of Estonia will be visiting schools and universities around the country in December to showcase Azeri culture, traditions and customs for students. The events forming part of the cultural days are being organised by the centre for the 12th time.

“Putting on these events for school and uni students is really important to the local Azeri community,” explained Nijazi Gadžijev, the chairman of Ajdan. “We hope the events give the students a better understanding of the Azeri kids attending their schools and make them more tolerant. We want our kids to be proud of their families’ heritage.” Gadžijev added that any schools and universities interested in Azeri cultural events and in inviting the centre to visit them should feel free to get in touch.

Azeri Cultural Days will be taking place this December at Tallinn University, Pae Upper Secondary School in Tallinn, Tallinn German Upper Secondary School, Hugo Treffner Upper Secondary School in Tartu and Nõo Upper Secondary School of Science.

As part of the festival, participants can get involved in a quiz that will test their knowledge of and enlighten them on the history, culture and traditions of Azerbaijan. Azeri souvenirs will be awarded to the winners. There will also be an exhibition showcasing Azeri nature, urban culture, folk costumes and more. Folk dancers will be attending this exhibition.

For further information please contact: Nijazi Gadžijev | NPO ‘Ajdan’ Azerbaijani Cultural Centre of Estonia | E-mail: [email protected] | Mobile: +372 50 19 694

This event is supported by MISA via the national minority cultural association project competition, which is financed from the state budget of the Ministry of Culture.

For further information please contact: Kristina Pirgop | Head of Partnership Relations, MISA | E-mail: [email protected] | Telephone: +372 659 9024

‘Flight of the Bluebird’ festival and competition to take place in early January

Lüüra (the International Union of Associations of National Minorities) is organising the ‘Flight of the Bluebird’ music and dance festival and competition for children and young people for the 24th  time.  The event will take place in the first week of January.

“The aim of organising the competition is to support the preservation of national cultures and to encourage and support young people who are involved in folk music and dancing,” explained Ilona Uzlova, the director or Lüüra. “Organising it is also a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on talented youngsters and give them the recognition they deserve.”

The competition is open to young people between the ages of 5 and 25. Competitors can take part in three categories: singing; dancing; and playing musical instruments.

The competition will open at Lindakivi Cultural Centre (J. Koorti 22, Tallinn) at 11:00 on 5 January 2017.

The gala concert of the event will take place at the cultural centre at 14:30 on 6 January 2017.

Both the competition event and the concert are open to the public, free of charge.

For further information please contact: Ilona Uzlova | Director of Lüüra | Mobile: +372 5808 1044 | E-mail: [email protected]

The activities of national minority umbrella organisations are supported by MISA from the state budget via the Ministry of Culture.

For further information please contact: Kristina Pirgop | Head of Partnership Relations, MISA | E-mail: [email protected] | Telephone: +372 659 9024

“I am a migrant“ – Fascinating real-life stories about people living in Estonia

Said’s story: "To feel integrated one needs to speak the language of the host country, get to know the culture and the law, and respect them" 

“I’m originally from Morocco, but I have a Spanish citizenship. Throughout the course of my life I can speak of three significant stages – when in the Canary Islands, Barcelona and Estonia.  In Morocco I studied archaeology and heritage. I’m interested in conserving and rehabilitating archaeological and historic monuments.

Life on the Canary Islands was the hardest, I went there to continue my studies. The scholarship I had did not cover my basic living costs, so I was obliged to find a supporting job. As a student I needed to wait six months for a work permit, so I began working illegally at a night club on the weekends. It was a cultural shock for me to see all that I saw, but I had no other option. Later on I worked night shifts as a parking lot security guard. I worked six nights of the week and went to university during the day. Even though I was very lonely, stressed and exhausted, I managed during my first year. In the second year I could not even read one page, I had to stop studying and focus on surviving. I realised change was needed, as I initially had come to study and not to get any job I could, but I also couldn’t go back to Morocco.

I had friends in Barcelona so I decided to move there, they helped me find a job at a postal office. I was in contact with a spiritual Sufi community where I met a woman who later became my wife. Doing meditation at the centre helped me feel like part of the community. My situation changed completely. I now had a family and support to better understand the society. I finally got to finish my master studies.

My wife was a member of a dialogue group held by the UNESCO centre. People from different regions and beliefs met to discuss spiritual and social issues, how to live in peace, respect of the differences and growth for the common interest. I became very involved. I realised people are afraid of what they do not know. We organised events so that locals and different communities could meet.

When crisis came and UNESCO centre needed to stop their activities, I began looking for jobs elsewhere. We had previously come to Estonia many times. My wife’s son lives here and is married to an Estonian girl. We came to visit her grandchildren often. On our visits to Estonia we felt happy and peaceful. It was a hard decision but we thought we didn’t have a job in Spain and we have family here, so why not come to Estonia. We moved in the spring of 2014 and I found a job after three months as a baker. At first it was difficult for my wife to find a job, but we had savings and the help of our family.

Besides working as a baker I’m doing other things like teaching refugees about Estonian culture, obligations, benefits, ultimately how to get integrated here. I can say that three things are needed to feel integrated in this society; first is to speak the language of the host country, get to know the culture and law of the country, and respect the culture and law of the host country.

The role of the mediator is critical, as they need to be patient, understanding both the migrants and the local population. The mediator needs to find solutions. This role is something I did in Barcelona and I aspire to continue doing so here in Estonia.”