Eesti Elu
Hemingway and two Estonians
Inimesed 11 Mar 2011 Eva VabasaluEesti Elu
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It had been two days since the Mariner of the Seas left the port of Valparaiso, Chile and with 3,800 passengers aboard sailing southward toward Cape Horn, South America. Each morning my husband and I went to the formal dining room for breakfast to meet interesting people from different parts of the world. And so began the morning of Friday, February 4th at a table of five with a blond lady next to me from Vancouver Island and one other couple from Ohio. The breakfast morning conversation turned to talk of travel documents and I mentioned that my husband had a Canadian passport and an Estonian passport. The lady next to me announced rather excitedly "My mother was Estonian!" She said that her mother barely escaped the clutches of Russian occupation, had married a Greek and further that she, Crissa Constantine, sitting next to me, had spent childhood years in Greece.

"Your name sounds familiar, " I said.

"There was a book written about my mother,” she added, "called Banished from the Homeland."

I said "I wrote a review about that book for the Postipoiss, the local Estonian newsletter in Vancouver."

She replied, "I wrote the book!"

What are the odds?

The next port stop was Ushuaia, Argentina, population 64,000, the most southerly city in the world on the island of Tierra del Fuego. The tender boats taking passengers from the ship to the city was running 3 hours late and my husband said "Well it's not the end of the world if we don't get off to see it."

"Actually, it is the end of the world," said I amused.

Ushuaia is a cold place at latitude of -54.8 degrees S. Tallinn's latitude is 59.4 degrees N. Ice water currents from the Southern Ocean, so named in 2000, account for the cool summer temperatures averaging 5 to 12.5 Celsius in December through March. After a city walking tour we were in the tender boat when my husband heard some Estonian being spoken. We introduced ourselves to a couple from Tartu and the gentleman commented that Hemingway had said there's at least one Estonian in every port. I asked, "Did Hemingway actually say that?"

In Hemingway's book To Have and Have Not published in 1937 there is a 13 line paragraph mentioning 2 Estonians aboard a 34 foot yacht in Key West, Florida who wrote articles about their sea adventures and sent them back to Estonia earning $1.00 to $1.30 per column. Papa H. went on to say other Estonian sailors, some 324 of them, were sailing round the world and their stories too met print in Estonia under a column entitled Sagas of Our Intrepid Voyagers. Hemingway surmised that such articles were as exciting for Estonians to read as sport features were for U.S. newspaper readers. Contrary to a multitude of internet reports, the popular quote "In every port in the world, at least two Estonians can be found" or some similar version of it was not written by Hemingway per se. What he wrote according to my research was: "No well-run yacht basin in Southern waters is complete without at least two sunburned, salt bleached-headed Esthonians [sic] who are waiting for a check from their last article." Rather a mouthful and he refers to writers specifically.

As for Crissa Constantine, she is not only a writer but also a classical pianist and composer. Her beautiful music can be heard at her website:

(ed. note: Visit the EE Online archives, enter Crissa Constantine’s name to find and if desired read reviews of both her books and recordings.)
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