In the course of planting a new forest in Saaremaa’s Purtsa village, a metal milk can used by an Estonian Forest Brother, or anti-Soviet partisan fighter from the mid-20th century, to hold a secret stash of supplies was unearthed after more than 60 years in the ground. The sealed can contained a total of 50 well-preserved items.
The more than 60-year-old secret was unearthed by chance when a tractor working a clear-cut area struck and damaged the milk can’s lid. Remarkably, the items removed from the container were very well preserved.
“I came here to plant [trees], and saw that some kind metal thing was visible,” Ando Ansperi, the man who discovered the buried milk can, told ETV’s nightly news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera.” “Some kind of clothing item was visible in the metal container; I thought that someone had buried some kind of rag or trash. I pulled it out, thinking that, I don’t know, maybe it would start to smell too — but then the tip of a pair of binoculars popped out.”
A newspaper included among the supplies sealed in the milk can hinted at when the supply stash may have been buried — the paper included an advertisement for an event scheduled for September 3, 1950.
89-year-old village local Albert Pärna offered some insight into who could have likely been the one to hide his supplies there, recalling another village local who had defected to the surrounding forest.
“Yes, Tuuling Aleksander was here during that time,” Pärna told the reporter. “He killed a Russian soldier, took his weapon and fled into the woods. He feared he may otherwise get locked up!”
The claim gained credibility when corroborated by Saaremaa Museum researcher and Forest Brother expert Karel Püüa, who likewise believed that the hidden stash likely belonged to Saaremaa’s last surviving Forest Brother Aleksander Tuuling, who was betrayed and killed by his own relative in 1953.
“Following Elmar Ilp, Aleksander Tuuling was one of Saaremaa’s most legendary Forest Brothers,” explained Püüa. “All the necessary everyday items are in here. There are even some [linen table runners] to exchange for for eggs and pork fat from some nearby farm if needed.”
The discovery was an extraordinary one by Saaremaa standards and the Saaremaa Museum plans to briefly exhibit the 50 unearthed items next week.
“The items have truly been astonishingly well preserved in this milk can, as the soil was dry and sandy,” noted Püüa. “If we take a look at these matches... I think if we took one and struck it, we could surely light a cigarette from the pack from the milk can.”
In addition to its historical value, the unearthed stash confirmed at least one more thing for anyone wanting to preserve something for future generations for decades — as it turns out, a milk can is one place where you can be sure that stored items will keep well.
Editor: Editor: Aili Sarapik