Subscribe Menu

Filmmaker Helga Merits: “It became clear once more how precious time is”


Helga, you visited Estonia this winter, just before the corona panic started.


I was in Estonia at the end of January, start of February, when it became clear that this new virus, corona, might become a real threat to many people. Within a few days all facemasks were sold out. A Chinese couple, tourists, staying in a hotel in Tallinn, were taken to a hospital for turning up late for breakfast. People coughing got a suspicious look.
Filmmaker Helga Merits


Helga, you visited Estonia this winter, just before the corona panic started.

I was in Estonia at the end of January, start of February, when it became clear that this new virus, corona, might become a real threat to many people. Within a few days all facemasks were sold out. A Chinese couple, tourists, staying in a hotel in Tallinn, were taken to a hospital for turning up late for breakfast. People coughing got a suspicious look.

Returning to Holland I was still optimistic of naïve, or both, about my possibilities to travel to the US and Canada in the month of May. So, in February, I was organising my trip to Seabrook for recording a second round of interviews. I would have also gone to New York, Chicago, then to Toronto for the whole month of August.

Especially when the situation in Italy became so alarming and numbers of people who had coronavirus in Holland were rising in March, it was clear that travel was no longer possible.

The Corona has closed down the whole world. How has life been in Holland?

There was a lockdown in Holland, but happily we could still go out for a walk. The centre of Amsterdam was so quiet and with spring starting, the fresh green on the trees, the silence because of the lack of tourists, of traffic, it was beautiful.

I cycled several times to a park at the edge of Amsterdam where there is usually so much noise from planes flying over that it is no longer a nice place, but without the sounds of aircraft engines, it was possible to enjoy the landscape and it was again a great place to be.

I work mostly at home, so at the start not that much changed for me, but the archives were closed and for me travel is essential. Though USA was not possible, I still hoped I could come to Toronto for the month of August. In June, the European Union started to work on a list of countries to which one could safely travel to. At the end of June, early July, I waited for this list. The negotiations were still going on. Finally it was published and to my great joy Canada was on the list, but then Canada decided to keep its borders closed. During the month of July, I hoped for a change, but none came.

But I could go to Estonia. I wanted to use my time for work, for writing, but it became mostly a holiday.

What interesting things did you do in Estonia?

I couldn’t stay with my aunt in Tartu,….

(Read more: Estonian Life No. 40 2020 paber- and PDF/digi)

Written by Lea Kreinin, Toronto

Helga Merits taking a photo... Photo by Lea Kreinin


Read more