Friday, 22 October 2021 19:00
Estonian Life No. 42 2021
The Estonian Sea Captain tells the story of my father, Captain Evald Jakobson, his life, family, and the country of Estonia. A naval adventurer and a patriot, he built up his own shipping company, carrying cargo, smuggling vodka, and delivering arms to the Spanish Civil War.
The second World War drove him to move to England, where his house became a centre for the Estonian diplomatic and shipping communities. He worked integrating Estonian ships into the British wartime convoys, was flown up to Stockholm end 1943 on a mysterious mission for the British Government, and was active with helping Estonians in the Great Escape to Sweden.
Postwar, in addition to employing mostly Estonian crews in his shipping business, he set up a publishing company, Boreas, to build support for Estonia and its literature in exile.
Like many exiles he talked little of his life in Estonia pre-war nor of the fate of his two very different families, one firmly attached to the land, the other to the sea, that stayed on through the Nazi and Soviet occupations.
After years of supporting Estonia through his shipping and publishing businesses, Evald died in 1973. Estonia seemed a distant part of the family’s history at that time. All this was to change dramatically in 1991 when Estonia regained its independence and with it, the new Government’s policy of returning properties to their original owners.
With The Estonian Sea Captain, I embarked on a new and challenging voyage of discovery of two families and a country.Peter Jakobson
About Peter Jakobson
I was born in 1941 and grew up in Surrey, England, where my childhood straddled two cultures. My brothers, cousin, and I were brought up as 1950s middle class English schoolboys by our Estonian parents, Evald and Asta, who believed this was the best for our futures. At home, they spoke Estonian to each other, but not to us boys.
After attending boarding school, I studied French and German at Oxford University. Languages led me into a lifelong career of sales and marketing of wines and spirits, travelling worldwide but primarily in Europe - including selling vodka in the Baltic, my first link with Evald's shipping world.
In the tradition of my father and Estonian sea-farers, I speak several languages, including passable Estonian. I have lived in England, France, and Belgium, where I retired in 2018.