The Finnish-Estonian relationship has recently gathered ample attention in Estonia. The travel restrictions that Finland imposed because of the pandemic were heavily criticized, whereas a recent Estonian television series on Estonians living in Finland offered a more positive angle on the Finnish-Estonian relationship.
After her masterful fictional debut The Little Comrade some three years ago, director Moonika Siimets (born 1980) returns to the world of documentary films with her new film on the Estonian diaspora. Estonians have sought for better living standards and working conditions from the northern shores of the Gulf of Finland, and many have settled in for good. Some have wanted to make a clear break from Estonia for their families, whereas others are trying to balance between two countries. There’s always someone longing back home, but returning may not always bring peace of mind.
The Finland-bound diaspora has been a generational experience in Estonia, and Finland would also be a different country without its 50,000 Estonian immigrants. However, this significant minority has remained somewhat distant for most Finns. When the host of the aforementioned TV-series asked Finns for their opinions about Estonians, a typical answer went no further than describing a hard-working construction worker.
In addition to illuminating the daily lives and sentiments of this significant minority, the film manages to touch on a deeper level. The themes of departing, staying, adapting and adjusting to new surroundings resonate across borders. The conflicts of being torn between cultures are portrayed accurately, yet emphatically. The viewer can learn something new not only about Estonia and Estonians, but also about Finland.