Thursday, 22 April 2021

Remembering Kopli Cemetery

With the recent funeral of Prince Philip it made think about longevity, death, the people I have loved and lost. My grandfather Alexander was born the same year as Phillip (1921) and how wonderful it would have been to see him live into his nineties. Sadly, my grandfather passed away in 1978 at age 58.

 I have always felt particularly drawn to cemeteries. It is the one place you can go to, to be near deceased loved ones. Many times while I've been in Estonia, I've visited  the final resting place of family members. They can be found at Kadrina, the Metsakalmistu in Tallinn and Kopli cemetery. For me, Kopli cemetery is quite a sad place as I have no way of knowing where my family are located. 

Kopli cemetery was Estonia's largest Lutheran Baltic German cemetery. It was built in 1772 and contained thousands of graves of prominent citizens of Tallinn. During the 1950s the occupying Soviet authorities decided to destroy the cemetery. It was completely flattened,  headstones were removed and turned into building materials. When families discovered this had taken place, they were left absolutely distraught. The final resting place of their loved ones has been desecrated. 

Kopli cemetery as it once was. 

Many members of my family were buried at Kopli cemetery including my grandfather's sister, uncle and cousin. When my grandfather's aunt Anette heard the news that the Soviets were destroying the cemetery, she raced there to rescue her husbands headstone. She managed to save it and when she died in 1961 the family decided to re-use the headstone and inscribe her details on the reverse side.  It was the best thing they could do to ensure that Anette and Hans could rest in peace together.

I once walked back from Pirita to Tallinn along the promenade and looking down on the pavement I could see names and dates in the stone. These are some of the headstones taken from Kopli cemetery. Such a dreadful sight to behold. 

In 1993 Kopli cemetery became a nature conservation area with paths, benches and a children's play area. At the centre of the park is a memorial water cascade. The park is nice and peaceful yet its hard not to feel sad knowing that below are thousands of people in unmarked graves.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Film: Goodbye Soviet Union

Inspired by his childhood in Estonia, Lauri Randla's Goodbye Soviet Union is a humouristic coming of age film set during the last years of Soviet Union. Randla has reportedly said 'that while the past can be tragic, you can also laugh at it'. For many, this film will be a reminder of some of the crazy things that took place during Soviet times and how life was in Estonia during the brink a new era. 

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Estonian literature: The Last Train From Estonia

It was my birthday recently and one of the gifts I received was 'The Last Train From Estonia' by Jaak Jurison. I enjoy reading Estonian literature, both fact and fiction, and pleased with the ever expanding list of titles in my collection. Jaan Kross is one of my favourite Estonian authors and I have been eagerly awaiting the release of A Book of Falsehoods : Between Three Plagues Volume 3 (translated into English) but the release date keeps getting delayed. I will have to wait until August 2022 to read it.

I'm looking forward to reading The Last Train From Estonia. The story is sure to resonate and no doubt make me think of my own family's plight during those dark years in Estonian history. 

Monday, 12 April 2021

Explore the Arolsen Archives

The Arolsen Archives has an extensive collection of ducuments relating to the victims and survivors of National Socialism. If you have family members who lived in Germany during or after World War Two, then you may find records here. I have found several records relating to my grandparents living in German DP camps.  You may find something too.

You can begin your search by simply entering your family name here: Arolsen Archives

Friday, 2 April 2021

Nedsaja Küla Bänd - Seda veel ei tea (I do not know yet)

The Easter holidays are upon us, so now is the time to relax, eat some tasty treats and listen to some good Estonian music. 'Seda veel ei tea' is a catchy tune with a nice story that was a hit in Estonia earlier this year. English translation of the lyrics can be found below.

English translation of the lyrics.

Once upon a time there was one old man
With his son on a poor farm
One day it happened
Their only horse disappeared
All neighbours expressed compassion
About their misfortunate life
Man thought a little and answered them
Shaking his head
I do not know yet, I do not know yet
Is this good or is this bad
I do not know yet, I do not know yet
Whether is this good or is this bad
Soon the horse was back
But not alone
Three wild horses
It brought
All neighbours envied them:
"You are still lucky"
Man thought a little and answered them
Shaking his head
Son tried to ride the horse
On its back
But had an unhappy fall
And broke his leg.
All neigbours expressed the compassion
About their unsuccessful life
Man thought a little and answered them
Shaking his head
Soon the big war has began,
All men were invited there,
But the son with his broken leg
Had a paper from doctor
All friends envied him
You are still lucky
Son thought a little and answered them
Shaking his head