European Area conference

During the last three days of June the European Area conference of the international Y’s Men organisation took place in the fourth biggest city in Russia – Yekaterinburg. Three members of Pärnu Y-club represented Estonia at the conference

Even though the European conference took place on June 28th to 30th  in Yekaterinburg in the hotel Novatel, the Estonian  representatives spent a dozen days in Russia in order to get to know the vast country a little bit more and see Y’s Men clubs’ activities also in Ufa and St. Petersburg. In addition to the interest towards the Russian Y’s clubs another purpose of the meetings was preparing for the Russian Week in Pärnu which takes place next year. Our trio was: Area Finland-Baltic director Piia Karro-Selg, Estonian regional governer Mikko Selg and club member Urmas Saard.

Besides short posts on social media (Facebook) the Y’s Men activities have not gained much interest in the Estonian-language media. Perhaps the main publisher has been „Külauudised“ web page. Thus it is important to give a short explanation of the essence of the Y’s Men International movement. Y’s Men International is a global volunteer movement in a bigger organisation YMCA (The Young Men’s Christian Association). Y’s Men was established in 1922 in Toledo, Ohio, USA. The movement first reached Europe through Tallinn in 1928. Piia has previously explained that the aim of the Y’s Men movement is to cherish and spread Christian values, a natural part of which is noticing and supporting those in need. The movement also has other good qualities. It brings together good-willed people all arounf the world, encourages overcoming language barriers and mediates the folk and national culture of diverse nations.

The conference began extra ceremonially – carrying in the flags of many countries. The flags of the countries whose representatives were unable to attend the conference were just as honored as the flags of those countries that were represented in Yekaterinburg. Thus Estonians also carried the German and the Ukranian flag. I carried the Estonian flag. I have carried the Estonian flag at a public event once before. It took place in the first-time Estonian Flag Day celebration in Pärnu in 2007. I was marching in the very front of the line. I now had a similar honorable opportunity for the second time in Russia.

I liked the guiding principle of Y’s Men Europe President Christian Ulrik Lauridsen about the ability to laugh with a sincere kindheartedness and to smile to each other. The Sunday morning message was delivered in an original way by Piia, thus generating more interest and gratitude. I saw people personally going to thank and compliment her.

Olga Vozchikova and her team undoubtedly worked hard for the Yekaterinburg conference to succeed. Perhaps we can learn from the Russians?

The next Y’s Men Europe conference will be held in Denmark in 2020.

The route from Yekaterinburg to Ufa took us along the Ural Mountains. We were making such zig-zags that from the back vagon we could quite often spot the first end of the train. 800 kilometers south from Yekaterinburg we were welcomed by a pleasantly homelike bunch that hosted us with Baskir cuisine and drinks. The friendship town of Ufa in Estonia is Paldiski, however the Ufa Y’s club wishes to become a brother club with Pärnu Y-club.

In the early hours of the night we caught a flight straight to St. Petersburg. Aleksey Vasilyev greeted us at the airport. It has been over 40 years since I last visited St. Petersburg. Before showing us the 5-Million-people city Aleksey took us twenty kilometers to the south to visit Pushkin, St. Peterburg’s suburb.

Prior to leaving St. Petersburg we met a fun, but matter-to-fact company that represented the Megapolis, Sveta and Vesna Y-clubs active in St. Petersburg.

Piia told them about the planned Russian Week in Pärnu. The idea created quick interest in the Russians. We surely hope to meet them in Pärnu during the Russian Week. Just like in the previous meetings with Y’s club members we gave them small Estonian flags so that our hosts would remember us for a long time.

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