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foto Erika Jakobson Eesti lipuga foto Markus Jakobson

Erika Jakobson (center) celebrating her Estonian heritage. An attendee at the Song Festival in Tallinn, Estonia in 2014, Erika and her family were moved by the power of song and generations of pride that continue to inspire her today. Photo: Markus Jakobson

 

A wave of joy rushed over me as I stood watching the choir of 30,000 fellow Estonians singing to celebrate our history. Being surrounded by people with so much pride for their country made me  realize why my dad had so much love for Estonia. He was among many people crying at Laulupidu (2014), as he heard songs that echoed independence fill the air, while he danced and waved the Estonian flag.

 

During World War II, my paternal grandparents fled the oppressive rule of the Soviet Union and were among the lucky escapees who immigrated to the United States from Estonia. Raised in the United States, my father has remained a proud Estonian, and he has instilled this same pride in me.

 

Because of Estonia’s small population and our distance from his heritage country, my father has made a concerted effort to bring the Estonian community to me. Throughout my entire life, he exposed me to Estonian culture through film and art. He has even taught me traditional Estonian folk dancing and a few phrases from the complex language. 

 

The pride instilled in me has inspired me to represent my heritage country through sport. Being a passionate equestrian for the past twelve years, I hope to one day represent Estonia on their national equestrian team. I have loved horses since I was five years old, and I truly believe this affinity comes from my greatgrandfather, who was a major in the Estonian cavalry. My  great-grandfather passed the equestrian passion to my grandfather, who grew up spending every day at the stable, riding horses for pleasure, and ultimately he passed the love for riding horses to me. 

 

foto Erika Jakobson ratsavoistlusel hobune Taaka Perealbumist

Erika Jakobson, 16, riding the beautiful horse named Taalex at the 2018 Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL. Photo from the family album, credit: The Book LLC

 

Being able to represent Estonia through equestrian sport will allow me to connect not only with our heritage country but also with my family. Having completed in the Longines Global Champions Tour of Chantilly, France and Miami, Fl, USA, I already have international competition experience and awards and hope to expand this representing Estonia.

 

The Estonian community is a small, often overlooked community. Regardless, I am immensely proud to be a part of it. The lessons I’ve learned from my Estonian background will continue to influence and help me in the future, such as finding creative solutions to my problems. Because of the small size of our community, I carry a sense of pride and obligation to be an extension of my heritage and to represent Estonia well to others. 

 

Erika Jakobson,

Florida

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