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The President of the Republic in Võru on May 31, 2001

Estonia Remembers

I have not come here to keep silent, and I was deeply touched by the words that we just heard – the quotation from this schoolchild who said that the man whom he had interviewed had not been willing to name any names – he had tried to speak more generally, he had been afraid. Here, in the Republic of Estonia, we are not afraid, we are not afraid of the past, we are not afraid of the future either, because we rule the past and the future is in our hands. This is what I first wanted to tell you after those beautiful, precise, and also sad words. And today's Broken Cornflower gathering is not just a day of mourning, but also a gathering of our strong people; just look around – we were deported, we were imprisoned, our people were tortured and left to rot in prison camps, and it is true that many did not return; but have a look at this square: we are alive, we have won, we have restored independent Estonia and we have gathered here under the Estonian flag. This is the meaning of this day.

What is our duty? Of course, it is our duty never to forget, never to forget those who are buried somewhere far away and who have few people, if anybody, to tend their graves. We must not forget, we can forgive, we can understand, but forgive we must not. And this is why we hold these gatherings. What happened to Estonia, also happened in Latvia and in Lithuania, but the history of Europe does not know any other hard times like that. Let us remember that these three small nations were caught between the heavy grindstones of the two totalitarian regimes of the time – Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. Consider also, that this was not the kind of polite war of which we can read in books about France, or let us say the Netherlands or Belgium. War is always cruel, but in those countries, it could also be polite. Here in Estonia, like in Latvia and Lithuania, the war was not directed against the state, it was first and foremost directed against the people: our families, our language, our children; and above all, it's aim was to deprive us forever from the possibility to build up our state again; this is why the leaders of our state were among the first to be arrested. This was a real war, a Hot war and yet an invisible war, because the Soviet totalitarianism only had the courage to act in the dark; in daytime, everything had to be quiet and in order. We have talked a lot, but we have not much investigated the chronology of those cruelties, we connect them to the Hitler-Stalin pact, and this is true; but the lists of those at whom the guns were to be pointed, at whom the bayonets were to be pointed in Estonia, had been drawn up in the Soviet Union already in the beginning of 1939, when no one in the world as yet anticipated the secret pact between the Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany. We should understand that the world has rarely seen such mean and pedantic preparations for abducting people from their homes under the cover of night.

My dear people, when speaking here and trying to tell you that we have nothing to fear, I am not talking only to the Võru County, but also to those rural municipalities that used to be part of Petseri County before the war; and before my eyes I can see the incongruity between the current county borders and the pr-war boundaries.

Yesterday, and on my way here, I made some calculations: the first wave of deportations, with the second one that followed in March 1949, took with it 1200 people from Võru County; but of course I do not want to speak of only two waves of deportation, and I do not wish to speak of the mourning day as the anniversary of deportation. Let us not forget that the arrests started as soon as the Red Army reached Estonia; also, there were more than two waves of deportation. People were deported from Petseri County in 1950 and from Võru County also in 1945. And in addition, I would like to recall the names of all those who disappeared without notice, who were just arrested and then disappeared. And now let me read out to you a list of all those who were arrested after 1945. The list does not contain given names, and the people are from the city of Võru.

Abbi, Arras, Bünger, Daniel, Donner, Erkmaa, Hain, Hammer, Heisler, Heliloo, Herne, Hiob, Hütt, Judeikin, Kahro, Kais, Kaldma, Kaldmäe, Kalev, Kase, Kessler, Kisand, Klaasma, Kobul, Kongo, Kontkar, Kornel, Korts-Lindus, Krusbart, Kulla, Kägo, Laugason, Leib, Lukats, Lukk, Lukkats, Lõokene, Makke, Marand, Mehine, Meriväli, Mets, Mett, Mudas, Muuga, Märtin, Nestra, Oimet, Oper, Ossip, Paemurd, Palo, Piibe, Pikk, Puksing, Puusepp, Pärnaste, Raa, Raag, Roomet, Rõõmus, Samason, Sarapuu, Sepman, Sikk, Sizov, Sulbi, Tamm, Tammiste, Tamra, Tattar, Teder, Telk, Terasmägi, Truumaa, Tsahkna, Tsopp, Tõnisson, Valner, Vikson, Vohla, Voitka.

I would rather not dwell on matters that the people of Võru know better than I do. Also these names are on our agenda today. We commemorate them, we think of all those who are no longer with us, who were left in Siberia, who died in the Soviet prison camps. We must remember them – not out of fear, but because we trust ourselves, our future, the Republic of Estonia, the security system that Estonia will hopefully become part of, when accepted to NATO and the European Union. We trust the holy ground of Estonia, and a wealthier future than the present that we see around us today; which is a little bleak as far as weather is concerned. This is the essence of our Broken Cornflower, and in the name of this essence, I am proud to welcome all of you, and to say: my dear ladies, no longer in the prime of youth, and also gentlemen who are past their prime – muster up the courage to speak of everything that happened, and do not conceal any names.

Two weeks ago, I had to deliver a speech on the 100th anniversary of the ''Kalev'' sports society in the Estonia Concert Hall; and I succeeded in finding out the name of one of the first Estonians who had been brought here by the Russians; he was one of the first to build up the Soviet system here, and already in October 1940, he wrote an appeal to Moscow, saying that Estonians should be deported to Siberia; otherwise, he wrote, the Soviet power would have no chance in Estonia. This man's name was Kress. Let us not forget those names. They are all dead and buried; we are not going to revenge them, but to despise them – that we can do. This is the meaning of our gathering; we draw force from it – look how many we are. We have prevailed, we have won, and they have lost. Let this be the crucial meaning of today's gathering, and I would like to thank everybody who has come here today, and to shake hands with all of you.

Thank you.


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