As a child, I assumed my mother was English. Her spoken English was said to be peculiarly accented, but I never heard that. Only now, 40 years on, can I see that her "English" identity had been arrived at strenuously.
She was born in 1929 in the Baltic republic of Estonia. For three centuries, this shadowy, sea-girt land had been part of Tsarist Russia; its independence lasted scarcely two decades following the First World War's end in 1919. Nevertheless, during that brief period, Estonia took on a new identity as a hopeful new European nation situated between the Russian and German worlds. There was little sense of the tragedy that lay ahead.
In 1947, aged 17, my mother arrived in England by way of displaced persons camps in post-Hitler Germany, her only possession a suitcase containing a photograph of her burnt Tallinn home.
In 1940, as Sofi Oksanen writes in her superb fourth novel, [i]When the Doves Disappeared
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Returning Estonia to light