My grandmother Hertha often used to say she should write a book about her life because she had had such a colourful and eventful one. She was born in Tartu, moved to Germany with her Baltic German husband at the start of World War II and then eventually settled in Australia. For a ten year period from 1939 until 1949 her life was in a state of limbo as a result of war, occupation, being displaced and living in fear that she may be repatriated to her Soviet occupied homeland. Even after she relocated to Australia she maintained a deep fear and loathing for the Russians and she always referred to them as that - never as 'Soviets', 'Red Army' or 'communists' etc. In her opinion the Russians were far worse than the Nazis and the massacres of civilians in Nemmersdorf and Metgethen perpetrated by the Red Army is proof that they were at least as evil. Unfortunately my grandmother never got around to putting pen to paper, not even in diary form, so many of those life experiences stayed private and simply went with her to the grave.
It was never my grandmother's intention to permanently settle in Australia, she had dreams of living in America but unfortunately her immigration application was rejected Even in the 1960s she still hoped to move to the USA but by that time my grandfather was settled in Australia, he liked it there and didn't want to start over again. Manly is an absolutely beautiful part of Australia, the perfect place to raise a family. My family still live there today.
In 1989 my grandmother passed away while living in Manly. It was a direct result of her smoking, a dreadful habit she had developed later in life. I wish she had lived longer but unfortunately that was something out of my control. I was only thirteen years old at the time. I would love to have heard more about her stories and life experiences to gain a better understanding of the woman she was.
Sadly, this generation of Estonians are slowly leaving us. Everyone who left Estonia due to the war and occupation are now in their senior years, many of them aged in their nineties. It is important for us to record and preserve their stories as they are the ones who remember Estonia during its first period of independence, before everything changed. Everyone I have spoken to who lived in Estonia during the 1930s all have glowing praise of how wonderful life used to be there before the Soviet invasion and occupation. Earlier this year I was in contact with a distant relative who now lives in Brazil. She recounted her father's words to me of his life in Estonia before he was forced to flee. He said, - 'no matter rich or poor, everyone was happy in Estonia - it was a wonderful place to live'. And from all the photographs I have seen, I have to agree!