Translated by Alja Pirosok
Tiiu Kuhi and Frank Adamek. The Cemeteries of Tallinn: the people’s legacy. Grenader, 2012. 128 pp.
Throughout the ages the Estonian people have instilled in the young a respect for their parents. This was elemental in old folk faith and preserved also in later Christian teaching. Even more respected were the departed, and their memory was held sacred. Watchful care was taken of their cemeteries. Cemetery Anniversary, the open-air church service held in a cemetery in the summer to commemorate the dead, is one of the loveliest traditions held on to persistently even to this day.
It is moving to hold in hand the remarkably lovely little book compiled by Estonian-born Tiiu Kuhi, who, as a child, made her way to Canada, and her husband, Frank Adamek, born in Canada of Ukrainian parents. Tallinn-born Tiiu says she feels these are her cemeteries, too, though she looks at them with an outsider’s enthusiasm. She has placed between these covers a great number of photos of first-class quality from many of her hometown cemeteries, and added introductory texts to them that are matter-of-fact and at the same time heartfelt. Phototechnical editing has been tended to by her husband Frank.
The book is divided into three parts: yesterday’s cemeteries, memorial cemeteries, and today’s cemeteries. To the first category belongs the distressing fact that during soviet rule, several cemeteries were liquidated, because soviet ideology required the obliteration of previous history. The first to be destroyed were the burial places of German soldiers, then a couple of cemeteries where many Baltic Germans were buried. An old Jewish cemetery also had to finally make room for new development projects.
The author finds that cemeteries are riveting. With that one has to agree. The grave markers are distinctive, each memorial tells its own story. Walking through native cemeteries instills in the human soul a deep peace and belonging together with the dear departed. Although the work in question includes only the resting places in the Capital, there are an immense number of such well-tended burial places in Estonia.
The book is entirely bilingual. Short, but to the point and polished texts are in Estonian and English and should as such be of interest, too, to a younger generation. In the book there is also an account of funeral customs and the All Souls’ Day tradition. It is a supreme pleasure to leaf through a work, from which emanates so deep a respect and regard for our national heritage.
Of ancestral graves with a deep feeling of piety (1)