Lethbridge Estonians Families

Little is known of Estonians in the Lethbridge area prior to the Second World War. Following the war and until the 1980s, however, some 40 Estonian families, both second generation Estonian-Canadians and post-war immigrants, moved into the area.

The second generation Estonians were largely from the Barons, Alberta area. They included Ralph and Karin Erdman, Dr. Lawrence Kotkas, and Victor Erdman.

A greater number of Estonians arrived following WWI as political refugees. They were for the most part professionals or business people and included Dr. Leo Niilo and his wife Herta, Harry and Linda Randma, Kaljo and Lilian Põhjakas, Arne and Vilma Nirk, Helmuth and Kärt Nirk, Karl and Aime Lilleniit, Eugine and Laine Seeman, Aleksander Wiler, Endel Ups, Uno Vann, and Kaljo Vann. With the married couples came roughly 20 children; only two, Lea Swizer and Lisa Vann, are still in Lethbridge.

The families did not set up any heritage or cultural organizations, though they held frequent family gatherings. Very few of the families remained in the area.

Canadians of Estonian descent who have lived in Lethbridge:

  • Ralph and Katrin Erdman and their daughter Kathrin (from Barons in 1951)
  • Viktor and Hilda Erdman (from Barons in 1950)
  • Lawrence Kotkas (from Barons in the 1950s)
  • Karl and Aime Lilleniit (arrived in 1950)
  • Helmuth and Kärt Nirk (arrived in 1950)
  • Arne and Vilma Nirk and their daughters Lisa, Karin, and Eta (arrived in 1955)
  • Martin and Lucy Linderman (from Foremost in 1960)
  • Valfriede Luts (from Vancouver in 1980)
  • Leo and Herta Niilo (arrived 1951)
  • Kaljo and Lilian Põhjakas and their daughters Lea and Tiina (arrived 1971)
  • Arnold Pukk (arrived in the 1950s)
  • Harry and Linda Randma (arrived in the 1950s)
  • Eugine and Laine Seeman and their daughter Idamalle (arrived in 1948)
  • Endel Ups (arrived in the 1950s)
  • Uno Vann (arrived in the 1950s)
  • Kaljo Vann (arrived in the 1950s)
  • Aleksander and Steele Weiler (arrived in 1948)

All those who did not come from Barons or Foremost were war refugees and arrived via Germany.

Alberta's Estonian Heritage