Born in Tallinn, Estonia |
For Killi, what started as a short visit with a friend to Toronto over twenty years ago, ended up morphing into a life changing decision. Having grown up behind the Iron Curtain in Estonia she found herself in friendly and free Toronto. Although coming from “a privileged life in Estonia” – attending an English immersion school, raised by a mother working in the hospitality industry and a father who was a Rock Star in the 80s – it was still “living in prison”. When Killi arrived in Toronto, she says she literally had ten dollars to her name and the decision to stay meant starting from zero. She emphasized that “everything [she has] accomplished here, [she has] done on [her] own merit”, with good friends and a strong community to lean on. All her children have been born in Toronto, but she says their family will always have strong ties and feelings towards Estonia. Currently Killi works as the marketing coordinator for a small Estonian-Canadian charity, and visits her country of birth every two to three years.
Toronto as Home
Killi is standing inside Tartu College, located at Bloor and Spadina. Tartu is a city in Estonia, home to one of the oldest universities in Europe. She says she loves saying “I’m going to Tartu”, because she feels like she’s going home; even if she’s nowhere near Estonia. For the Estonian community it’s a cultural centre and in the future will be a museum for Estonians abroad, with the upper part providing housing for University of Toronto students. This is where the Estonian film festival EstDocs takes place, an event which Killi has for the past nine years volunteered for. She has attended sorority meetings, theatre performances and many other events there. When friends from Estonia visit, she takes them there to show them “our own Tartu”.
Connection with the Past
Killi’s tattoo symbolizes her dual Estonian-Canadian citizenship. It is a Canadian maple leaf with the Estonian flag colours, blue, black and white. Before getting the tattoo, she went out looking for the perfect leaf in the park and drew the design herself. She says Estonians are very connected to their colours, because for over forty years during Soviet occupation both their flag and the combination of these colours were banned. Since re-independence, they proudly display them everywhere.