By Margota Pukitis
Amber Aged Care, formerly Baltic Communities Home, is a unique residential care facility because of its multicultural flavour. About half of the residents are of Baltic background because these people were one of the first post World War Two immigrants, who came from displaced persons camps in Germany, Denmark, Austria and other European countries. These were the people who in the late 1940’s and 50’s established their communities in their newly adopted country Australia. In Adelaide they built or bought buildings which were to become the cultural centre for the community where cultural functions were organised, Saturday language schools, folk dancing groups, choirs, theatre performances and their churches were established. These dedicated volunteers now are spending their twilight years at Amber Aged Care where the staff are also of European backgrounds, and the lifestyle coordinator ensures that the important festivals and national days of these 3 communities, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are celebrated. To keep these people connected to their community throughout the year events such as this Baltic Extravaganza are organised. This year on the 12 October everyone from the 3 communities were invited to attend an afternoon at Amber Aged Care and taste the different Baltic foods, sample the 3 countries beers and liqueurs and get to know one another better as well as mingle with the residents. Everyone attending was encouraged to wear their national costume and if possible provide some musical entertainment to add to the Baltic atmosphere.
It truly was a Baltic extravaganza firstly it is spring and the weather was perfect, the 3 flags were hung, bunting swayed in the light breeze in the colours of the three countries and guests came and quite a large number were dressed in their national costumes. The women who did not wear the national costumes wore their amber jewelry which too was admired by everyone present.
The highlight of the day was the food, however for some people it was the beer, and the bar was very busy indeed. The Estonian community is the smallest in number of the 3 Baltic countries in Adelaide and they prepared the entrée for the day. We were treated to portions of beetroot salad in small cos lettuce leaves , stuffed eggs topped with caviar, herring on small portions of rye bread and cottage cheese with fresh radish on rye bread.
The next course was a choice between Vienna sausage with sauerkraut and home made rye bread or kaldunis, dumplings served with a creamy sauce with bacon. The break between the courses was ideal for the musical item and Lilita Daenke from the Latvian community played on the traditional Latvian instrument the kokle. It is a string instrument similar to a sither but smaller. This was a wonderful moment, everyone stopped talking and for a moment if one closed their eyes they were in their home country as the music from the kokle reminded them of the sound made by the swaying trees or the ripple of waves on the beach. An outsider would have witnessed a group of 100 people dressed in colourful clothes, if a bit outdated, and enjoying the moment. Everyone had just tasted a bit of Estonia and they must have felt that they were truly home in Estonia.
The time had come for the next course, well everyone was ready. I could not believe my eyes how much one can eat and yet remain relatively slim. I had seen the mountain of cakes sitting in the cool room and thought to myself that we will have so many cakes left over and how to perhaps sell them off. Again slowly and in good time the second course was over and the sound of the 3 languages and a sprinkle of English could be heard. We had invited a group of Laotians to come to this event as they are now in a similar situation to us 50 years ago. They are a small group and are trying to establish their community in Adelaide and were very grateful to visit us and see for themselves how culture is fostered in a multicultural society in Australia.
There were so many cakes baked by the Lithuanian community that we had to bring an extra table on which to put the cakes. It was truly an unforgettable sight let alone the taste sensation in our mouths. Recipes had to be exchanged, advice given on how to do it better, where to buy the ingredients. Again the noise level rose, perhaps due to a big sugar lift as a result of eating too much cake. The Chairman of the Board M. Pukitis closed the afternoon by thanking the Amber Aged Care staff, and volunteer community groups for their hard work to make this afternoon a memorable one for the residents. Many photos were taken which will be printed and put on the noticeboard in the activity room to remind them of a lovely spring afternoon spent with members of their communities in their home, at Amber Aged Care.