I had three godfathers. Tõnu Paomees, who, as a retired high school music teacher died of natural causes in Haapsalu during the Soviet occupation.
As Estonians were preparing to celebrate Christmas away from the inquisitive eyes of local Communist functionaries, on December 14, 1949, my other two godfathers, Richard and Artur Saaliste, aged 33 and 36 respectively, were shot dead in a battle with the NKVD and Red Army troops at Eidapere, near Vändra. This was five years after tens of thousands of Estonians escaped to the West, fleeing from an advancing Red Army.
In 1944 I was three years old at my baptism in Soviet-occupied Hiiumaa. I was obviously without any personal recollections of the three men, but the stories that my father told of the Saaliste brothers have kept their immediacy for me over the years.
I was never able to understand why my father knew of their tragic end already in the winter of 1949-50. I remember that particular winter. We had lived the first year in Montreal after arriving in Canada from Sweden and my father came home on Christmas leave from the ship he had sailed on for the last twelve months. He was happy to rejoin his family but deeply saddened by the news of his lost friends. (Full article here: Estonian Life No. 50 2018Estonian Life No. 50 2018)
Laas Leivat, Toronto
Eesti Elu Nr. 26 - 3. juuli 2020 DIGILEHT
Kõik numbrid koos sisukorraga: www.issuu.com/estonianlife
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