Maria Metusalo: My journey through history to Estonia
I applied for a residence permit based on my Estonian roots, even though I could also apply for one because of my student status at the Pallas University of Applied Sciences. But I have Estonian roots and have invested a lot of time and effort in researching my family history. I feel that I am Estonian. I went through a difficult path to find my roots and return to the homeland of my ancestors. My last name was originally spelt Metusala in Russian documents but was transformed into Metusalo.
My family voluntarily moved to Siberia in 1898 in search of a better life. They were landless peasants. My great-great-grandfather was Adelbert Metusala (Juri’s son), born on 12 September 1850. When I was fourteen, I began to think about my roots because I have a very rare and unusual surname. In Russia, everyone with this surname is my relative, and this surname is only found in Russia. I asked my father about our last name, and he said it was an Estonian surname. But he didn’t know much about it because of his paternal Estonian roots and because his parents were divorced. Therefore, I decided to independently learn about my roots and create my own family tree. Soon, I found an Estonian community in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk and participated in all of their events, festivals, and exhibitions.
I am interested in Estonian culture, history, and art. I have attended the HeadEst language camp in Estonia twice. In the autumn of 2018, I participated in the Back to Our Roots project in Estonia and received a scholarship from the Archimedes Compatriots SA programme to study in Estonia for one year. After that, I studied Estonian at the University of Tartu for one year and received a B1 language level certificate. I continue to learn Estonian and improve my skills every day.
Currently, I am studying at the Pallas University of Applied Sciences, and I will finish my studies next year. Last year, I received a grant for a two-month professional internship from KÜSK. Although my grandfather and father may have been more Russian than Estonian, I consider myself Estonian and love Estonia very much.
My four years in Estonia have not been easy. Immediately after I moved, the COVID-19 pandemic began, followed by the war. It has been traumatic for me and has divided my family. I became depressed. It pains me to watch Russia act as an aggressor, occupying and terrorizing an entire nation. This story is very personal to me. My stepfather is Ukrainian, and my grandmother was Ukrainian. I have friends from Ukraine, and I want this war to end as soon as possible.
Despite the challenges, I am proud to live in a small country with strong people. I am grateful to Estonia for its position and help. I am also happy to live in a country where I have so many new and different opportunities, such as learning languages, getting an education, being free, and speaking out loud and writing my thoughts. Thanks to Estonia and all the people who helped and supported me on my way!