On 9 May, the news broke that the United States Postal Service had suspended sending any mail to Estonia, citing the lack of means of transportation; the evidence suggests the mail has been suspended for weeks already.
“The Postal Service is temporarily suspending international mail acceptance for certain destinations due to service impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the USPS says on its website, listing 111 countries, including Estonia, that the suspension affects.
Estonia is listed in the section of countries where the suspension is in effect due to the unavailability of transportation.
Interestingly, Estonia is the only European Union country in the list.
Letters linger in the USPS system for weeks
However, there’s evidence that the mail service from the US to Estonia has been suspended already for weeks. The deputy editor-in-chief of Estonian World, Sten Hankewitz, mailed a letter from Chicago to Estonia on or around 17 April.
“Today, on 9 May, the letter was returned with all sorts of labels on it,” he said. “By the date on one of the labels, the decision to return the card was made on 4 May, which means it had to linger in the USPS system over two weeks without ever leaving the country.”
The USPS printed on the envelope, “RETURN TO SENDER. REFUSED. UNABLE TO FORWARD” and also instructions on how to get a refund for the postage.
“The situation is weird as Chicago has direct air connections to Frankfurt, which still has connections to Tallinn. For example, today, two Delta and one United Airlines flight are scheduled to depart to Frankfurt and they’re all marked ‘on time’. And Lufthansa still flies from Frankfurt to Tallinn,” Hankewitz asserted.
Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Estonia only European countries on the list
“And since the USPS delivers mail to Latvia and land transportation between the countries is functional, it shouldn’t be rocket science to figure out how to get mail into Estonia.”
Even the Estonian politicians are baffled. Marko Mihkelson, the vice chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the Estonian parliament, said on Facebook that this news was very strange.
“Estonia is the only member state of the European Union with whom the US has suspended postal service because of the lack of transportation,” he wrote. “How is it possible with Finland and Latvia? Hopefully our diplomats and the US Postal Service can figure out a quick explanation for the suspension. In the (USPS) list, the only other European countries are Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Cover: The returned letter that lingered in the US Postal Service system over two weeks before it was returned to the sender.