With the current global climate, I wanted to share the connection of Estonian Independence Day (24 February) and the power of people and resilience. 

My husband’s family (where the name Milkop comes from) are Estonian. His grandfather first went to Australia from 1927-36, and on returning to Estonia he met his wife (Alice – also our daughter’s name) and they both moved to Australia in 1938/39.  They moved on to New Zealand in January 1940 (they found Australia too hot!), just before the Russian occupation of Estonia in July 1940.  Mass deportations to Siberia occurred in 1941 and 1949, and Estonia did not become a free country again until 1991.

Our kids are ¼ Estonian, and some ‘Estonian ways’ are definitely in their blood (e.g. my year-old son’s favourite food is pickled herrings and dill!)

On Estonian Independence Day (24 February), my husband hosted a Zoom gathering of fellow Estonian people from across New Zealand, and we talked about lots of things – it was all about CONNECTION.  It was beautiful.  People talked about their belonging and how they linked to Estonia. Some even spoke in Estonian. There was talk of the pain and empathy everyone is feeling for those in Ukraine and Ukrainians across the world. It was a sense of understanding and to take a moment for those who are facing incredible hardship at no fault of their own.

Video subtext:  Here our family were sitting at the very back of the festival ground on the hill by the trees overlooking all the thousands of people in unity and connection.

During the years of foreign occupation, Estonians held this deep connection to one another. They held hands and joined together in song. During foreign occupation, creative freedoms were suppressed. Only particular music and dance was allowed. However, their songs evolved over the years to incorporate more words of freedom and patriotic expression.  Their power of joining voices in musical liberation is inspirational – the ‘Estonian National Awakening‘ is a period of history (from the 1850ies) where Estonians came to acknowledge themselves as a nation deserving the right to govern themselves (and lots of famous musicians emerged during these times).  Finally, on 24 February 1918, they became the Republic of Estonia.  It’s a day worth celebrating.

What does this story of connection matter so much to me?

In 2019, we had the privilege of visiting Estonia, meeting lots of cousins and attending Laulupidu (the famous Estonian song festival) in its 150th year.  I joined the rest of the family at the festival on its final day as my father had just passed away in the UK so I was spending some time there.  It was a raw time for me, and I was so grateful that we were able to be over that side of the world to be close to family during this time.  

When I walked into the festival grounds in Tallinn on the last day of the festival – thousands of voices were singing together.  It was such a powerful connection that I had tears streaming down my face. It ended up being the last mass gathering we would go to for a very long time.  It was a hugely healing experience.  

The warmth and friendliness and down-to-earth, straight-speaking nature of the Estonians is truly remarkable.  They are ‘people of the earth’.

How does connection make change happen?

Estonians know where they came from.Their mighty resilience, connection, and a commitment to something bigger than themselves. Even through all the pain and suffering they went through as a nation (deaths, torture and suffering of loved ones), they still came together proudly to sing with their hearts and minds about their true intent. They are a country of peace, freedom and prosperity. 

You don’t even need to understand the words in the video to feel the ripples of power and change in this music and voices.  And see the passion and determination on their faces!

When we share a connection as humankind around purpose and belonging for something that is worth singing out loud for, what kind of difference can we make?

It makes me curious to know how many of us are connected with each other around our own shared purposes and intent?  

My Big Question is currently: “How can I be a catalyst in helping others ignite their true potential to help them make more of a positive impact in their work and lives” It needs to evolve to something bigger.  Because of this Big Question, I quit my job in 2020, started my coaching/facilitation practice, and I’m now very much ‘living out’ this question as a “Now” question every day.  My daily work is about catalysing unique potential in others – leaders, teams etc.  And I LOVE it.

I’d love your help. Can you help me make my Big Question bigger?!

Please do share what resonates with you about connection. I would love to hear. 

If you’re curious to work out what your own Big Question is, or wanting to make change happen with more impact and less drama – you may be interested in Digby Scott’s Change Maker programme.  I’m helping Digby with his next cohort of Change Makers Kick Start – you can find out more in the link below. 


Learn the change-making fundamentals and kick start your change agenda with this intensive, interactive five-week course delivered online.

Next cohort kicks off: Monday 2nd May, 2022. Click the icon to find out more!