The threads that stitch together Canada’s many subcultures vary widely, bringing new colors and textures from all over the world to form a single unified country. One could argue that there is not a definite Canadian culture, but instead a collection of diverse cultures.
Indigenous Estonians, like many others, arrived in Canada to escape the harshness of the advancing Russians and foreign rule in their home country. Developing a new life on a new continent required these people to fight to keep their culture intact for future generations of Estonian-Canadians who may never see their homeland for themselves.
This story is about the women who fled their homeland and came to Canada as refugees with nothing more than a deep love for their culture. These women have kept this culture alive by creating traditional folk dresses for themselves and their children. To ensure that culture lives on, they continue to pass on their skills and the meaning of these garments to the younger generations.
The Estonian folk dress is specific to time and place. A person wearing one could be identified with a specific area or village. This sense of identity is shared with new generations of women who carry on their mothers’ craft and create textiles that trace their roots and create new identities and clothing. In this way this generation of Estonian-Canadians are truly multicultural – they are Estonians living in Canada.
This is the story of the strength of not just an entire people, but of the women who used the skills they depended on for their own survival to preserve the beauty and resilience of a proud country.