TALLINN – This year's Citizen of the Year title was awarded to Johanna-Maria Lehtme, founder of the Estonian NGO Slava Ukraini, which provides assistance to Ukrainians.
"This year's Citizen of the Year, Johanna-Maria Lehtme, is undoubtedly the face of the outgoing year, which bears the colors of the Ukrainian flag," Minister of the Interior Lauri Laanemets, who awarded the title, said.
He added that this year's Citizen's Day is special.
"The outgoing year has been overshadowed by Russia's attack on the free state of Ukraine and its people. Over the course of these months, we have seen how quickly and effectively our non-governmental organizations and volunteers acted to help Ukrainians from the very first days of the war both in their homeland as well as by supporting the war refugees who arrived here. Certainly, many companies and entrepreneurs who came to the aid of the state and volunteers with advice and strength must also be recognized here," the minister said.
"In the application for nomination as Citizen of the Year, it is emphasized how Johanna-Maria Lehtme has been able to find more and more opportunities to help Ukraine and Ukrainians in a constantly changing, often confusing and tense situation, while being able to mobilize the private sector and other non-governmental organizations and volunteers. In By doing things jointly and together, great things happen," Laanemets added.
The Citizen's Day badges were awarded to Eve Soopa, Ivi Sark, Julia Stolberova, Kaidi Kornak, Kaja Schumann, Kristina Ojamae-Lankov, Kati Tear-Riisaar, Merili Ginter, Nele Pernits, Signe Varv, Tiina Hussar, Triinu Priks, Tuuliki Oberschneider and Veronika Isberg.
"With badges, we recognize, on the one hand, helpers of Ukraine and Ukrainians, whose activities have a cross-border reach, but also promoters of local life and those who help solve the concerns of people and animals. All of these people are equally role models for our society, because they are driven by empathy and a commitment to truly helping. This is what makes them exemplary citizens," the minister said.
According to Laanemets, Citizen's Day provides an opportunity to notice and recognize people who make a great contribution to civil society.
Nov. 26 is marked as Citizen's Day in Estonia.
The Citizen's Day badges were awarded for the 25th time this year. Altogether 31 proposals for the award of the badge of honor were submitted to the commission. The badge of honor is a recognition for people who have left an important mark in their community or in society at large by promoting civic education, valuing civic awareness or volunteering in their communities.
The tradition of awarding the title of Citizen of the Year was initiated in 2003 by the former minister of population affairs Paul-Eerik Rummo, and this year, it was awarded for the 20th time.
Candidates for the Citizen's Day badges and the title of Citizen of the Year can be nominated by all physical and legal persons through the website of the Ministry of the Interior. The proposals are reviewed by a committee set up at the Ministry of the Interior, which includes representatives of state institutions and NGOs and persons who have stood out in civil society.
Both the Citizen's Day badge and the title of Citizen of the Year can be awarded to a person only once.