100th Birth Anniversary of Olga, the Founder of the Museum


26th of June is the 100th birth anniversary of Olga Kistler-Risto, the founder of Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom. Olga was one of many who was forced to leave Estonia in 1944. Almost half a century later, Olga wanted to contribute something big to Estonia, something that would inspire future generations to appreciate their history. In the late 1990s Olga and her husband donated more than two million euros for the creation of the museum. Olga’s dream was that the crimes committed in the recent history of Estonia would never be repeated.

On Saturday and Sunday we are welcoming everyone to participate in the special program devoted to the 100th birthday of Olga in Vabamu.

  • 100 special tickets for 5 € with a code 'Olga'

  • Guided tours 'A Woman who gave Estonia the Museum' at 11.00, 12.00, 13.00, 14.00, 15.00 and 16.00. Tours are in Estonian, participation with the entrance ticket.

  • The screening of a documentary film 'The Woman Who Gave Estonia a Gift of a Museum: Olga Kistler-Ritso' (2013), which is made in the initiative of the Stanford University Library. The film is in English with Estonian subtitles.

  • Special birthday cake devoted to Olga in museum's café.

Olga Kistler-Ritso (1920-2013) was born in Ukraine. Her Russian mother died at a young age and Eduard, her Estonian father, was sent to a Siberian prison camp for years by the Bolsheviks. Along with her brother Aadu, Olga, who was only a few years old, had to take on the journey as a refugee – with the help of their uncle, the children managed to reach their father’s home. The uncle decided to give Olga to a foster family to provide his niece with a stable family life. Olga was adopted by the Olliku family.


Following in her father’s footsteps, Olga went to study at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Tartu and graduated in 1944. In the autumn of the same year, fearing the recurrence of the Soviet terror, she fled her fatherland along with 80 000 other Estonians. Having found temporary refuge in a German refugee camp, she worked as an ophthalmologist and a pediatrician. In 1949, Olga migrated to the United States, where, as a result of her strong determination, she managed to start an eye surgery practice. Dr Olga Kistler-Ritso was a recognized specialist in her field.


The biography of Olga Kistler-Ritso reflects how the systematic evil of the occupying powers failed to break the spirit of the people.


Find out more about Olga's life and the founding of Vabamu here.

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