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The President of the Republic's Competition on Historical Memories

Dear Estonian schoolchildren and teachers!

Imagine going home and not finding your mother and father there. Your brothers and sisters will not be there either, and the neighbours will be strangers to you; in the kitchen, you will be unable to find your mug and spoon, and the kitchen is not really a kitchen any longer, and the people around you speak a strange language that you do not understand.

Does this sound like a fairy-tale to you? Yes, and this is as it should be. Things like that never happen in Estonia. And yet they did happen here, and this is called deportation. At the end of this schoolyear, on June 14, we shall all commemorate all the families that were taken to Siberia from Estonia at gunpoint during the five waves of deportations; they lost their homes, their education and their friends, and often also their lives. On the forthcoming Mourning Day, June 14, it will be 60 years from the first major deportation wave, but we shall commemorate the victims of all deportations, all those who were taken from Estonia by force, no matter whether they were Estonians, Russians, Jews, Finns or Swedes. But can we commemorate them in the right way? How did the deportations affect your family, your rural municipality, your school or your city? What does your grandmother or grandfather, mother or father remember of the deportations? Did they witness the deportations? Did they see the freight trains guarded by soldiers, or were they among the deported? What did they think when they left the Estonian border behind them? What did they see when they reached their destination? On my first night after deportation, which happened to be the eve of the Midsummer Night, people sang ''Ma tahaksin kodus olla'' (''O I wish I were home'', a poetic Estonian song about a homesick heart). What songs did your grandparents or parents, relatives or neighbours sing?

Dear schoolfolk, you are all learning history from books, but this time I am inviting you to write a history book yourself, so that future generations would be able to learn from it.

I hereby declare open the competition of collecting memories of deportations in Estonia.

The competition is open to all pupils of all Estonian schools, from the fifth to the eleventh form. The winners shall be rewarded with an excursion to Finland. And also the teachers of the Estonian language, history, or local history who help to organise the contest will receive prizes. Let us keep in mind that this is not an essay competition, but a competition of collecting memories, where the correctness, not the length, will be evaluated. Who, where, when, why, how – the train, the first day far away, the work, the starvation, the sugar, the breaking of the ice, the funerals, and the hope, and many other things – all those should be in your questions, to be answered by your parents, relatives, or neighbours. Our goal is to publish a book containing the best results, a book that would bind together memories from all Estonian rural municipalities and cities. Each author and each school will be rewarded with such a book – a history you have written yourself. Should they wish so, also pupils of younger forms can participate in the competition, as well as those who will graduate this spring, provided this will not interfere with their preparations for final exams. For May 10, the competition papers will have to be handed over to the teacher who is in charge of the competition at your school. Do not forget to put down the name and address of the person whose memories you have contributed. If you add any photographs, mark the name(s), the location and the date on the backside of the photo. All memories – also those not selected for the book – will be preserved at the Literary Museum in Tartu.

This appeal shall be published in all Estonian papers.

The results of the competition shall be made public on the forthcoming Mourning Day.

Dear Estonian schools, I wish you courage to get on with the job! And remember: it is better to be brief, but precise!


Lennart Meri

Kadriorg, April 9, 2001


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