Saima Kurikka was born in Valga, southern Estonia in 1925. Her life spanned 97 incredible years.
Her parents Olga (Estonian) and Juuso (Finnish) soon moved the family to the capital city of Tallinn. In 1944, Saima graduated from the noted Lender High School for Girls shortly before the massive Russian bombing of Tallinn which killed many, including her mother and younger brother. Only days before the bombing, she had met her future husband, Kalju Varangu, at a graduation party. This chance meeting would change the course of her life. As Russian troops advanced and the fighting intensified, Kalju found Saima and asked her to flee with the Varangu family. Facing storms and a shortage of drinking water, they crossed the Baltic Sea barely making it to safety in Sweden. Through the Red Cross Saima also found her father again. In Sweden she studied business, graduated from college, and married Kalju. Six years later, Saima and Kalju moved to Canada through a sponsorship program that brought many immigrants to Canada after World War ll. They settled in Niagara Falls where Kalju had found work as a chemist, and where they raised their three daughters before retiring to the Toronto area 37 years later.
Saima was artistic – painting lovely pictures with a keen eye for design; musical – playing both the piano and violin; had a lovely voice, singing in various choirs; enjoyed being in and exploring nature – one of her favourite spots being their cottage in northern Ontario. Saima loved literature, poetry, and writing and she was an excellent public speaker. She would have a speech ready for any occasion! Saima also had a gift for learning languages and spoke Estonian, German, Russian, Swedish, and English. Following her arrival in Sweden, she learned Swedish so quickly and proficiently that she soon got a job as a court stenographer. She was not afraid of hard work and was an active partner in building the family home in Niagara Falls. While Saima was on the roof one day, the building inspector came by and asked where the owner was. She proudly stood up and said: ‘I am the owner’, shocking the building inspector. She was a feminist before the word was popularized.
Saima applied her excellent organizational skills to the various jobs she worked, but most important to her was volunteering and participating in the Estonian community. As an Estonian Guide Leader, she was a mentor to scores of young people, many of whom have fond memories of Saima’s sense of fun in learning and respectful counselling (especially when some thought it was a good idea to sneak out at night from the guide and scout camps … and she caught them!) Saima also volunteered at Seedrioru, an Estonian children’s summer camp, joined countless organizations that kept her birth country’s traditions alive, documented information about her Estonian heritage, and shared memories at Tartu College’s many Estonian projects. Saima was also interviewed by Estonia’s Institute of Historical Memory intent on understanding the lives of Estonians who fled the Soviet terror and their illegal occupation of Estonia. Saima was determined to ensure her Estonian heritage, language, and culture was kept alive in younger generations here in Canada. She was most proud that all her grandchildren speak Estonian.
Thank you to the wonderful caregivers at the Ehatare Retirement Home.
Saima is predeceased by her husband Kalju (2014) and is survived by her daughters; Anne (Paul), Eva, Linda (Rob) and her grandchildren, Leiki, Keila and Valen. We will miss her.
Funeral service will be on Saturday, January 28th 2023. Visitation with family 9 - 10am, Celebration of Life 10 - 11am in the York Cemetery Chapel followed by a wake in the reception rooms. A private burial will occur later. The Celebration of life will be livestreamed. A link will appear at the top of this webpage on Saturday, Jaunuary 28th, 2023, at 9:45 a.m.
In lieu of flowers Saima asked that a donation be made to the Estonian Foundation of Canada https://estonianfoundation.ca/donate-online or contact the new EFC-ESK office at 416.465.5600.
160 Beecroft Road
North York, ON M2N 5Z5
Info: This service will be livestreamed. A link will appear at the top of this page at 9:45 a.m. Following the Celebration of Life, guests are invited to join the family for a reception in the Willowdale Suite.