It is not very often that you have the opportunity to walk in your ancestors footsteps. My Grandmother, who is honestly my favourite person on earth, was born and raised in Nõmme, a village located on the outskirts of Tallinn. During WW2, Tallin was raided, bombed and many Estonians had to flee into Germany to survive.
Then a separate town from the city itself (but now considered part of Tallinn) was established by a “mad duke” Nikolai von Glehn and was, in the 1930’s, an area for working class Estonian families. The ‘garden suburb’ of Nõmme is where my Grandmother’s house was located- and I was determined to see where her childhood memories of skiing, tobogganing and climbing tree’s came to be. My Grandmother’s brother, Tom, had written a story about their childhood and his days fighting in the war, so I had a lot of information about the old days and new where to begin- their little house on Sihi street.
My grandmother could not come with me, as she is now 84 years old and in Australia, so I had to ensure that Tom and Gran could come with me to their home village.
Guided by a local and great man, Peep, he told me stories of the village and how their was a famous Duke who had decided to build his castle overlooking the sea, and wanted to build a giant channel to the Baltic sea- a total of 8km away and uphill (so, impossible). The Castle has since been reconstructed and it overlooks the skii area in which was detailed in Tom’s story.
Next I was taken into the heart of Nõmme where the town market still stands. The simple, kind people of Nõmme are not hassled by busy life, they take things slow and enjoy the simple things- like nature and fresh foods. The lifestyle here is truly inspiring and I soon realised where the traits I love most about my Gran originated.
These people are truly happy, modest and kind- through all the awful times, the soviet takeover and the wars- they are still so generous. Grandma, along with her parents and brother, where forced to leave this country to protect their lives. Many homes were bombed, burnt down and hundreds of lives were lost fighting for their territory. Unfortunately, like many others, they never got to return to their home and lost many of their belongings. My Grandmother and Tom had the option to reclaim their home, but instead, in true Estonian fashion, left it to those who had since lived there for many years. It is a true tragedy that war can change a whole countries lifestyle, but it did not destroy the Estonian people.
I will treasure this day for the rest of my life. If you ever feel the need to find your heritage, I highly urge you to go for it. It will change you and I have never been so proud to call myself a grandchild to the woman who went through so much at such a young age.
This is for you Grandma.