Gallery: June 1941 deportations anniversary marked in Haapsalu, Risti

Sunday saw commemoration ceremonies nationwide, marking the 79th anniversary of the June deportations, including in the western Estonian towns of Haapsalu and Risti.

The day's events in Haapsalu began at the cathedral, with candle lighting and a service.

One person who remembered the events of June 1941, which saw mass deportations of Estonians by Soviet authorities following the occupation which began the previous year, is Ellen Koppel.

Ellen was six when her family was deported, she told ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK).

At age 14, she was able to return to Estonia in secret, for around two years before being deported once again to another location in Siberia.

"There were three girls with us, we escaped and I was able to be in Estonia for two years until I was taken back," Koppel told AK.

"Of course not to the same location, but in another place, where I remained until 1957 when we came back to Estonia again," Koppel recalled.

The railway station has a memorial to the event entitled "Raudteerööpad mäletavad" (Eng: "The rail tracks remember"), where people gathered on Sunday.

Rail wagons holding deportees had passed through the same station.

Arnold Aljaste, board chair of the Estonian memorial union (Eesti Memento Liit), said that turbulent times and aggressive great powers are still present in the world, and we must not forget what can happen to a nation. The next generation must continue to bear the memory, he said.

"Precisely because there are so few people left. There are currently three former deportees Lääne County association who were deported in 1941, but they still remember and can still pass on the memories, and so that whoever suffers, we can still bring them to the fore and they can talk about it. We have to remember that."

Around 10,000 people were deported from Estonia to Siberia on the night of June 14 1941. Around 6,000 died en route or in Siberia or elsewhere in the Soviet Union, and never returned.

The deportations were an effort by the Soviet authorities to decapitate the Estonian state and so fell heavily on the political, business, administrative, cultural and intellectual elites.

The same process happened in Latvia and Lithuania, and was followed by a second wave of deportations in March 1949, this time numbering over 20,000 Estonians.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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