The story of my grandmother

Ellen Kahrs

My story is a family story; the story of how my grandmother fled the Soviet occupation of Estonia, and how this has shaped my family.

As the Soviet forces were occupying Estonia at the end of the Second World War, my grandmother realized that there was no future for her and her family in a Socialist Republic. My grandfather was a captain in the Estonian navy which was soon to be dismantled. So my grandmother fled with her two kids; my mother and my uncle on a small fishing vessel. My mum was just 13, yet she understood the gravity of what was happening. My family made it to Sweden – after 5 years my grandfather was found through Red Cross tracing service in Scotland and they reunited as a family.

My grandmother left an Estonia ravaged by war and multiple occupations. Her dream was to return to Estonia but only when Estonia was free. Sadly, she never had the opportunity to return to her homeland. She died in 1988, only three years before Estonia became free.

I would like to think that what she took with her – her journey as a refugee – was passed on to my mother and me. I remember growing up in a small house, but our door was always open. Could we house an unaccompanied minor from Hungary? Of course – just roll out a mattress on the floor! There was always room in our house. Could we house Koreans fleeing from the war? Of course, without a doubt!

1 family torn apart by war is too many

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