I’m publishing here part of a dialog I’ve been having with Siim Randoja (translated into English) who is a board member and organizer of the Estonian Olympic and Sport Museum. He has been instrumental in getting an exhibit up for my grandfather, Herbert Niiler, who was one of the early promoters of basketball in Estonia. He has likewise corresponded at length with my aunt who has been working hard to maintain our family’s ties to Estonia. Given his connection to sport, I thought it might be an idea to give martial arts minded Ukrainian refugees in Estonia a place to train to take their minds off of things and otherwise refresh mentally and spiritually.
I don’t know if you remember me. I am Viiu’s brother’s son, Tim Niiler. We met in the Sport Museum two times when I was in Estonia in 2016 and 2019.
I’m sure you’ve been following events in Ukraine as have we in the US. My father has recently sent out a letter asking us all to contribute to the Lutheran World Relief as this organization helped the Niiler family when we were refugees. While some of my family have done this I’ve been looking for additional ways in which to help. It finally occurred to me today as I was watching DW news and saw a story about a Ukrainian wrestler who was being sponsored by a German team. The training helped to take her mind off of the troubles at home, but also gave her a new family while in exile. The story can be found here: https://m.dw.com/en/ukrainian-wrestler-diana-lats-finds-refuge-in-berlin/av-61097292
This got my interest because I have been a martial arts competitor for years, and now I teach wushu/kungfu. My school’s homepage is here. https://www.opensourcewushu.com/wp.
I am thinking that it could be possible to organize something similar with local martial arts schools. I don’t know if you have any such contacts. If this works out, then it might be an idea to reach out into our networks to spread the idea. Although we here in the states are, at the moment, too distant to directly bring Ukrainians in, we could contribute some funding to help. Of course, it’s possible that something like this effort already exists, in which case we’d be happy to publicize it.
Let me know your thoughts on this, and I look forward to hearing from you.
(PS – I’m not just thinking high level athletes, but anyone who has trained in a martial arts school who might need a new home and place to practice).
Siim responded to me this morning. Here’s his letter as I’ve translated it. The gist of it is that people are bending over backwards to accommodate Ukrainians and any help is welcome. See the details below.
Thanks for your letter. Very well written in Estonian. I remember you very well, we looked over the museum and spoke of your work in measuring and analyzing the movement of athletes. This was interesting. If you ever come to Estonia again, then we will look at the new and more modern developments in the museum. But we will wait for the visit until there are better times.
Supporting Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees is a very sincere and honorable undertaking. Thank you for all this. In Estonia, we are also trying with every opportunity to help Ukraine and Ukrainians, through main aid organizations and also donations, however one is able. For example, most Estonian museums (including the sports museum) are freely open to refugees, and city governments are engaged with providing arrivals accommodation and support.
Also, your idea to support Ukrainian athletes is wonderful. But this is indeed a little difficult because unfortunately I don’t have for you a single very good contact to give. The current situation in Estonia is still as such that all refugees that have arrived are able to be housed, but also training opportunities for children and adults have been created as found here:
[Note – seriously take a look at this – they’ve got everything from table tennis to boxing to competitive cycling!]
All try in their own way to help, for example only yesterday came the news that over 40 judo clubs offer free training opportunities, and in the city of Tartu alone, free opportunities have been created for the purpose of training Ukrainian kids. At the same time, unfortunately I don’t know how many Ukrainian athletes have already reached someone so that it’s difficult to point to a specific club directly. Especially in the martial arts are many clubs in Estonia very small (wushu/kungfu) or historically mainly Russian in background (taekwondo, kickboxing). For this reason, classical arts like judo or karate are probably better possibilities to help.
Unfortunately I do not have for you a very good partner to direct you to in order to help. I can let you know as I hear about it, if somewhere a Ukrainian athlete is already training or for example somewhere would have urgent need for help for competition equipment or otherwise. Then I can make a connection. In any case, a big, big thanks to you for thinking to help and support sports, and I am sorry that I don’t now have very good contacts to give you. But this can change soon. I will keep you posted if I hear anything.
Heade soovidega (best wishes)
Eesti Spordi- ja Olümpiamuuseum
For my part, I will be trying to follow up to see if any athlete needs sponsorship. But that said, this is really icing on the cake for refugees. At this point it is more important to help with basic needs, and once that is dealt with to help people feel more at home. As I hear more about the situation or any opportunities where we can directly help, I will let you know.
PS – don’t forget that you can donate directly to organizations like Lutheran World Relief.