On Wednesday, ETV's "Pealtnägija" told the story of Ott Valgma (98), and Vaike Allika (96) who have known each other for 83 years. They first met in 1937, both felt it was love at first sight and were married soon after. But after Ott was sent to Siberia, both remarried before being reunited 50 years later.
The couple that now lives in Tallinn's Nõmme district met on August 27, 1937 when Vaike was 14 and Ott was 16 and they were both living and studying in Rakvere.
Ott recalled the moment when Vaike, with her black hair and fringe, first caught his eye. "When she reached where I was sitting, she did not move on, but stood still and turned her eyes to me, and then we looked at each other for a long time. This is where the first love started that's still there today."
Although Ott walker her home from school from day one and carried her briefcase, the traditions of the First Republic demanded a long courting period and the first kiss was to be waited for another eight months. It happened in Rakvere after the opening of the summer season.
Ott's and Vaike's first kiss took place at the Kreutzwald statue in Vallimäe in Rakvere. "We automatically had our arms around each other. That was my first kiss. I hadn't kissed a girl yet," he said.
Ott said that he also had rivals. "There was one pretty serious rival who was 12 years older than Vaike. He already had his own car."
At that time, Ott poured his heartbreak into the diary that he still has today. The young man wrote: "Yes, this diary must end with my one-sided love, because Vaike loves others. Until I see you, my beloved Vaike!"
Vaike said: "He thought that when he looked me in the eye, I couldn't look at anyone else anymore. Look how foolish men could be back then."
However, the black clouds above the relationship faded. Although World War II had already reached Estonia, after graduation Ott proposed to Vaike and the couple married on October 31, 1942 in Rakvere Church. Vaike became the accountant of the Rakvere Trade Association, while Ott was recruited to direct the youth sports and culture department of the Population Education Board.
The dramatic years begin
A year after the wedding, their first child Erme was born. Already during his school years, Ott was the leader of the Rakvere Junior Eagles Brigade and among those who took wreaths to the Rakvere Freedom Monument and expressed their anti-Soviet attitude to the dismay of the Reds. And when the communists returned to Estonia in 1944, this act was remembered and Ott Valgma was called to face the Executive Committee. Like thousands of other Estonians, the dramatic years of Ott and Vaike began here.
"So I said goodbye to my mum, dad, sister and little brother. Vaike came with me and as soon as I opened the door, I was told "hands up" and I was arrested," Ott said.
"Yes, it was scary. I had to get home from there. What did I do, young kid, I started crying. But there was nothing to do," Vaike said.
At first, Ott was in Rakvere, then the Harku labor and education camp, until, after being convicted of anti-Soviet agitation, he was sent to Siberia in 1947. As the official punishment was resettlement for life, the couple did not know when or if they would ever see each other again. Until 1953 when there was a ray of hope.
"I sent her a letter and money in 1953 to come to Norilsk [In Krasnoyarsk Krai in the Arctic circle - ed] with the child. And in the return letter, Vaike was harsh, she said she would never come there," Ott said.
"Who wanted to go to Siberia? Lord have mercy. Knowing what is there. I had a sister and a mother and everyone was here and they all said you are not going to Siberia," Vaike recalled.
Even worse - since it was not known when and if her husband would return at all, Vaike found a new partner in Estonia. This news broke Ott's heart.
"I was out of my mind. If it had been winter, I wouldn't be here. It would have been really cold, easily - 55-56 degrees, I would have gone outside and not needed much. I would have laid down my coat and fallen asleep with a shirt on. Two hours and I would've been done. But it was summer, so I didn't drown myself or hang myself," Ott recalled.
The couple, thousands of kilometers apart, both remarried. Ott found a new wife in Siberia - Heilke, also an expelled Estonian. Ott and Heilke got married and had their first daughter Tiina in 1954. Two years later their son Toomas was born.
"She said right away that if Vaike came, she would take the baby and go away so she wouldn't come between us," Ott said. Vaike said that when she heard that Ott had remarried, there was nothing left for her to do but survive and raise his child, though she couldn't forget about Ott.
Vaike persisted but never went to visit Ott in Siberia. Instead, she decided to marry her new companion, Ott's cousin Elmar. But in 1956, Ott returned from Siberia.
"I was not allowed to leave, but I was allowed on vacation. There were nice young communists in the staff department, but they said if I wanted to leave, I couldn't. They said that there had been many Baltic men who had left like this. I went on a vacation and got certificates from three doctors proving I had a disease that no longer allowed me to live in the north. That's how I got back to Estonia," Ott said.
When Ott arrived in Estonia, he searched for Vaike in the leather and shoe factory Kommunaar where the woman worked as a scrapper. He had to wait for Vaike for half an hour, but when they finally saw each other after almost 10 years of separation, it was as if the years hadn't happened.
"Our eyes met and then we were clinging to each other. It was clear that our first love was not over," Ott said. Vaike also confirmed that her feelings were still there.
"That night we discussed everything. We had no quarrel or conflict," Vaike recalled. "Everything that happened in between was fate. Neither he nor I were guilty."
The situation was resolved in such a way that both stayed with the legal spouse, but, in the present sense, a nuclear family emerged. A few years later, a third child, Reet, was born to Ott and Heilke. Vaike and Elmar had no children of their own, but they raised Vaike and Ott's son Erme. The two families celebrated birthdays and New Year's Eve together.
Ott's and Heilke's son, Toomas, said that his first memories of Vaike are from when he was aged two or three. "Vaike and my mom got along very well. We celebrated many birthdays and parties together."
Vaike admitted that she would longingly look at Ott and Heilke when they left together. "My eyes were wet, but there was nothing to do," she said.
Together again after half a century of separation
Vaike's husband died in 1984, and Ott's wife in 1995. Nearly 60 years after their first meeting, and after half a century of separation, Vaike and Ott were free again. In 2006, they officially remarried and admit that they are still each other's first loves.
Ott's son Toomas acknowledged that they, as children, knew little about the beginning of Ott and Vaike's relationship. "What came after we really enjoyed. Because our dad wasn't meant to live alone."
"No other man can ever be placed next to me. Be it a dozen, he was still the first and the last," admitted Vaike.
Ott also noted that it was his first love that was so strong. "We were both very good dancers and went to dance parties together. That was how we grew together since school. As a school nurse said four years ago, "You were the most desired boy in our school, but you never had eyes for anybody else but Vaike."
Ott and Vaike said they both continued to love each other and also danced with each other. "In the kitchen often, when Vikerraadio comes on. It is a good slippery floor."
As a recipe for eternal love, both said all things should be discussed together.
"Be it sad or happy things or whatever, never has it been one railing against the other. Never. I'd still like to tell all young people not to take it lightly, if it's really the first serious love, please do not spoil it. If anything has happened, talk to each other," Ott said.
Editor: Roberta Vaino