The War of 1812 brought the first Ukrainians to the city – then called York – as mercenary soldiers

Updates: A Feb. 20, 2014 New Yorker article is entitled:” Will Ukraine break apart?”

A Feb. 28, 2014 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Globe in Kiev: Ukraine’s new government declares Russia has invaded.”

A Feb. 28, 2014 Guardian article is entitled: “Ukraine: Night Wolves and unidentified military men seize key Crimea sites.”

A Feb. 28, 2014 New York Times article is entitled: “With military moves seen in Ukraine, Obama warns Russia.”

A Nov. 5, 2014 Guardian article is entitled: “Ukraine Crisis: What It Means for the West by Andrew Wilson – review: This is a vivid study of Russian expansionism and civil insurrection. Has the turmoil reached its peak? How much further will Putin go?”

An April 3, 2015 Guardian article is entitled: “Can Ukraine save itself from Vladimir Putin and the oligarchs?”

[End of updates]



You can access a post at the Heritage Toronto website entitled “Toronto’s Ukranian Community” here.

With regard to more recent history, a Dec. 20, 2013 New York Times article is entitled: “Kiev isn’t ready for Europe.”

Regarding earlier history, evidence-based resources include, among many others: Holodomor: Reflections on the Great Famine of 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine (2008) and Nazi Empire-building and the Holocaust in Ukraine (2005).

Three books by Richard J. Evans that provides a context for the latter resource are The Coming of the Third Reich (2004),The Third Reich in Power, 1933-1939 (2005) and The Third Reich at War, 1939-1945 (2008).


I didn’t find anything about the Toronto Estonian Community at the Heritage Toronto website but I did find an item about the Toronto Lithuanian Community.

A Nov.11, 2013 New York Times article about Lithuania can be accessed here.

An interesting feature of Lithuania is that the prevalence of bullying in schools in that country is among the highest in the world. Estonia and Latvia also have relatively high reported rates of bullying. A research report at (see link in previous sentence) notes that with respect to the lowest reported rates of bullying in schools, eight countries – Hungary, Norway, Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Czech Republic, and Wales – were among the bottom of ten countries for prevalence of bullying for both boys and girls.

The topic interests me because, years ago, I used to give workshops about teasing and bullying as part of my volunteer work. As a child, I wasn’t subjected to teasing or bullying. For whatever reason, I wasn’t the kind of kid that other kids liked to pick on.

When I worked as an elementary school teacher, I became aware that teasing and bullying can be quite widely prevalent in schools, unless effective steps are taken to address the problem head on. I’m pleased that school boards make a point of implementing strategies to deal with it. The PREVnet website is an excellent resource in that regard, as is the Bully Lab website.

Estonia and Latvia

To read about the Estonian Community in Toronto (and elsewhere), a good place to start is the website for the Museum for Estonians Abroad.

A 1984 document entitled The Estonian Presence in Toronto provides additional background.

The Estonian community in Toronto is organizing a Jane’s Walk for May 2014 that will focus on the work of Estonian architects in Toronto starting in the years after the end of the Second World War, at which time many Estonians arrived in Toronto as well as in Montreal and elsewhere in Canada.

By way of background about Estonia, a March 8, 2012 New York Times article is entitled “36 hours: Tallinn, Estonia;” a July 30, 2013 article in The Economist is entitled: “How did Estonia become a leader in technology?”

An April 9, 2013 New York Times article about Latvia is entitled:  “Online, Latvians’ ideas can bloom into law;” a Sept. 21, 2013 article in The Economist about Latvia is entitled: “Extreme economics.”

As a child and adolescent growing up in Montreal, and attending local schools, in the 1950s and 1960s, I found it remarkable how little was known about the wartime and postwar history of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. I’m really pleased to know that information is now more widely and readily available.

Formative experiences

These formative experiences in Montreal have stayed with me. I have an appreciation, now as a resident of Long Branch (Toronto not New Jersey), for how little I know outside of my own local community – and in fact for how little, relatively speaking, I know even of my own community. I have an appreciation of how much I can learn by interviewing long-time local residents, and by reading and studying as much as I can about the history of the world outside of Long Branch.

My background as a member of an Estonian refugee family, which has directly experienced the consequences of warfare, has influenced my view of history, outlook on life, and understanding of how the world works. For each of us, I think, our formative experiences have some influence on the frames of reference that we bring to our everyday lives.

From time to time, I think of the fact that Canada as a country owes its existence to the outcome of warfare. Had the War of 1812 gone in another direction, Canada would not have been created in 1867. I also think from time to time of the fact that it was a war in which Canada’s First Nations played a significant role, in ensuring an outcome that made possible the subsequent founding of the Canadian nation-state.

The world views that arise from our formative years are unique for each person. An individual can experience a given environment during their formative years, and arrive at a different outlook from a person who has experienced much the same environment. The world view can change in the course of a lifetime, from what I can gather, or it can stay the same.


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