ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
The end has come. Estonia is the newest member of the Euro Zone, and today is the last day that Estonians can buy something with their national currency. While most Estonians support joining the Euro, they're having a hard time saying goodbye to the kroon.
Here's Chana Joffe-Walt from our Planet Money Team.
CHANA JOFFE-WALT: Let's first address the obvious question here. The Euro Zone is not doing well. Greece needed a bailout, then Ireland. Now, it's looking like Portugal might too. So doesn't that worry Estonians? The most common Estonian response I get to this question is a shrug.
Mr. TETER BORK(ph): Ah, I don't mind.
(Soundbite of laughter)
JOFFE-WALT: This is Teter Bork. He says the benefits far outweigh the current Euro crisis. Joining the Euro will mostly likely mean more foreign investment for Estonia, and mostly, Bork says, it's a huge symbol. Estonia has arrived, and it's part of Europe.
Mr. BORK: It's the last proof that we're accepted as a full member.
JOFFE-WALT: Why do you care about being a full member?
Mr. BORK: It probably comes from the past of being a very full member of Soviet Union.
JOFFE-WALT: Estonia gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. And you know what everyone remembers about that moment? Money. Beautiful Estonian kroons.
Mr. MIHKEL RAUD (Writer; Judge, "Estonian Idol"): They were our own money.
JOFFE-WALT: This is Mihkel Raud. He's a writer and one of the more severe judges on "Estonian Idol."
Mr. RAUD: The only money that I have seen in my life was the Russian rubles, which looked ugly and looked very Soviet and Bolshevik. When you saw your first notes of national currency, that's probably the very moment when I realized that, hey, we are living in an independent country.
JOFFE-WALT: It took a while for people to put up flags, but the money was an immediate and daily symbol of independence. The majority of Estonians are supportive of joining the Euro now, but every person I talk to wanted me to know just how beautiful the Estonian kroon was. They remember the first time they touched it, how it felt.
Here's Hando Sinsalu, a business owner.
Mr. HANDO SINSALU (Business Owner): I even remember that my first purchase for kroons was actually a hamburger.
JOFFE-WALT: This week, Estonians have been considering what to spend their last kroons on.
Ullar Jaaksoo owns a software company and told me he wants to buy something that he could hand his grandkids in 30 years and say, I bought this with our own money, Estonian currency.
Mr. ULLAR JAAKSOO (Owner, Software Company): I was thinking almost two weeks what should be my last purchase with the Estonian kroon?
JOFFE-WALT: He thought and thought, and finally just a few days ago he decided.
Mr. JAAKSOO: And I bought lots of pencils to give to my grandchild one day.
JOFFE-WALT: You bought pencils?
Mr. JAAKSOO: Yeah. Pencils, because pencils represent language and the arts.
JOFFE-WALT: After today, stores won't accept kroons anymore. They all have to be turned into the central bank, where Viljar Raask and his colleagues are collecting them in a big pile. And over the next couple of months...
Mr. VILJAR RAASK: We destroy it.
JOFFE-WALT: You'll destroy it.
Mr. RAASK: We will burn them in order to generate heat.
JOFFE-WALT: To heat houses or something?
Mr. RAASK: Yes. Something like that. Yes.
JOFFE-WALT: Raask tells me they'll save a few kroons so future generations can see just how beautiful the national currency was.
Chana Joffe-Walt, NPR News.
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