top of page

A Legacy of Inspiration: Aimi Zechanowitsch

Update # 207

Aimi Zechanowitsch's testamentary gift ignited by Ülle Veltmann's passion

In the world of philanthropy, stories often unfold that resonate with the human spirit, inspiring others to leave a lasting impact. Aimi Zechanowitsch's testamentary donation to Estonian Arts Centre (EAC), the charity associated with KESKUS International Estonian Centre, is one such tale, with Ülle Veltmann's passion for the project playing a pivotal role in sparking Aimi's decision to contribute.


This story goes beyond a mere financial gesture by someone drafting their will; it's a narrative of friendship, and the inspiration that one person can be for another.


A shared passion for Estonian culture


Aimi and Ülle's friendship arose from a shared love for their Estonian heritage.  With Ülle running the café and providing community catering at the former Toronto Estonian House and Aimi living next door to the Estonian House, they readily became good friends.  Both women held a deep appreciation for the rich history and traditions (and let’s not forget the food!) that defined their Estonian identity.

Aimi Lehte (Kibena) Zechanowitsch 20.03.1935 (Tallinn) – 24.06.2022 (Toronto)

KESKUS was close to Ülle’s heart. She spoke passionately about KESKUS being where the global Estonian diaspora could come together and celebrate this shared culture.  Moreover, Ülle wanted to ensure an Estonian home for her own children and grandchildren in which Estonian traditions could evolve for generations to come.


It was during many of their heartfelt conversations that Ülle made clear to Aimi how strongly she believed in the vision behind KESKUS, and how a new and modern centre would carry these traditions forward. 


Ülle's dedication to KESKUS set a powerful example for Aimi, who passed away in 2022.  Because of Ülle’s passion for the KESKUS project, Aimi left a generous bequest to EAC.      

Aimi was moved by Ülle’s commitment to the Estonian community, and Ülle’s dedication to the KESKUS project demonstrated the impact one person’s passion and dedication can have on a shared cause.

Woman accepting bouquet of flowers
Ülle Veltmann receiving accolades at Toronto Estonian House "Lääst Blääst" in October 2022


Passion turned into action    


Aimi’s generous donation to the KESKUS project will support construction of KESKUS and the arts programming of EAC that will take place within it, ensuring that Ülle's dream will come to fruition.

 Maie Barrow, Aimi’s first cousin who lives in Sydney, Australia, remembers Aimi as a proud Estonian.  Aimi was a respected schoolteacher who travelled to over 100 countries, and whose academic interests were furthered by attending AABS conferences (Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies). 

“Aimi was pragmatic and not naively patriotic.  She had a M.A. in history and always sought out and adopted new ideas and new approaches,” said Maie, noting that Aimi’s generosity toward the KESKUS project did not come as a surprise.

Aimi with her cousin Maie in Kadrioru Park, Tallinn, summer of 1944

Tragically, Ülle Veltmann herself passed away in 2023, leaving a gaping void in the lives of all who knew and loved her and in the very heart of the Estonian community in southern Ontario. 


As we reflect on the heartwarming friendship of these two extraordinary women, it serves as a reminder that the seeds of inspiration can blossom into impactful legacies. 


Aimi Zechanowitsch's testamentary donation in support of KESKUS International Estonian Centre affirms the profound impact that one person's passion can have on another, and how enduring the influence of pivotal figures can be in our lives, as was Ülle in Aimi’s. 

As we honour both Aimi’s generosity and Ülle’s inspiration, may it encourage others to reflect on the meaningful connections in their lives and consider how their passions can contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage and the realization of shared dreams.


You, too, can make a bequest in your will to support KESKUS.  All of the required language to do so in your will is here.  Please: support KESKUS and inspire others to do the same, and transcend time.


Discover the benefits of giving wisely       


Please join the growing list of KESKUS capital campaign donors to help bring this extraordinary project to completion. KESKUS leadership donors are recognized here.

There are many ways to make a contribution to KESKUS. 

  • To donate, click here, or call +1.647.250.7136 or email Donations may be made as a family gift, or in honour of an individual or family. All donations are issued a tax receipt, in Canada via Estonian Arts Centre, US tax receipts via Myriad USA and Estonian tax receipts via Eesti Rahvuskultuuri Fond. Donations by credit card may be made here.

  • Legacy gifts made to the Estonian Arts Centre, the charity associated with KESKUS, are creative and tax-effective ways to provide support. These are known as “planned gifts” because with thoughtful planning, we create a win-win situation that benefits both you and our community for generations to come.  Find out how to provide a bequest in your will by going to

  • For information on making other types of planned gifts, including gifts of appreciated securities or insurance policies, or if you have any other questions, please contact EAC Donations Manager Taimi Hooper via email at or phone +1.647.250.7136.

Let’s keep in touch

  • Visit the KESKUS website for all the latest news

  • Sign up for the KESKUS monthly email newsletter

  • Follow us on Facebook @EestiKeskus, X @keskus, Instagram @keskus.iec


bottom of page