Estonians’ departure to the West during World War II became massive in the summer and fall of 1944 when more than 80,000 people, mostly younger men, women and children, fled as the Red Army was reoccupying Estonian territory. The escape to the West took place in the midst of war and 2-9 percent of the people perished en route. The flight was driven by fear of the repressive Soviet regime. Many fled in the belief that they can return once the war is over and Estonia is again free.
The book Carrying Linda’s Stones: An Anthology of Estonian Women’s Life Stories, issued by the non-governmental organization Estonian Women’s Studies and Resource Centre in 2006 talks about the fleeing and the destiny of those who fled. The 600 page English language volume, which has had two reprints, was edited by Suzanne Stiver Lie, Lynda Malik, Ilvi Jõe-Cannon, and Rutt Hinrikus.
While introducing Carrying Linda’s Stones in Estonia, the question has often been asked whether it is available in Estonian. The book was intended to introduce abroad Estonia’s recent history of war, occupations, fleeing and deportations. Clearly it is now time for the book to appear in Estonian, because the younger generation knows very little about the fate of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations – a situation that reflects the deficiency of books and school texts on that subject. Because the events of 1944, especially the fleeing, are rarely a part of public discourse, one hears to this day in Estonia that those people „left" or „emigrated".
Next year - 2014 - will mark the 70th anniversary of the massive fleeing. The Occupations Museum in Tallinn plans to focus on that event and together with the editors of Carrying Linda’s Stones to present an Estonian edition of that book in September. In addition, the country’s theme next year will be "Läänemere aasta" (Baltic Sea Year) and the book will bring the history of the massive fleeing across that sea to the public.
A year is available for the realization of this project, which has a budget of about 10,000.00 USD. Most of the life stories already exist in Estonian as computer files at the Estonian Literary Museum. Rutt Hinrikus’ texts need only to be edited for the Estonian reading public. The rest of the English texts need editing and translation into Estonian. The Estonian Women’s Studies and Resource Centre (www.enut.ee) will publish the book.
Considering that the book is part of the observance of a decisive event with particular meaning to those who managed to flee, the editors hope to raise the necessary funds among Estonians abroad who feel that their story needs telling to this generation of Estonians and that its presentation will be part of the observance in September 2014 at the Occupations Museum in Tallinn. Tax-deductible donations for the realization of this proposal can be made to:
Estonian Central Council of Canada, 958 Broadview Ave., Suite 101, Toronto, Ont. M4K 2R6.
On behalf of the Estonian Women’s Studies and Resource Centre, I thank you. Ilvi Jõe-Cannon, Tallinn.
The autumn of 1944 should not be forgotten (4)