This fall marks the 70th anniversary of some 72 thousand or 7% of the Estonian population, deliberately using whatever means possible, escaping the onslaught of a deadly Red Army. They were pushing into Estonia to replace the retreating German forces. Defensive battles with Estonians vastly outnumbered by the Soviets cost unsustainable Estonian casualties.
Estonians were filled with a pervading sense of hopelessness knowing they could not muster the military strength to fend off a third totalitarian occupation. This was mixed with a misguided sense of hope that a last-minute international rescue effort would be launched to keep the Baltic states free and independent.
Estonians had experienced the Soviet invasion and occupation of 1940-1941 that had devastated the population with outright executions, arrests and deportations to the hinterlands of Soviet Russia. Those who had the means and ability to escape to freedom in the West risked their lives to undertake the perilous voyages. Typically it was with a small, self-made boat hidden in reeds, some with installed car motors that took aboard a dangerous number of passengers to face the stormy conditions of the Baltic Sea in the fall. A sizable number of refugees simply perished at sea. It’s been estimated that of those who had set their course for Germany or Sweden, 7000 didn’t manage to reach their destination. The Soviets had started to target all refugee boats and ships with submarines and planes, with the Germans hunting those headed for Sweden.
(Edasi loe 10. jaanuari paberlehest)
Hopelessness and enduring hope in escape to freedom 70 years ago