Memorial unveiled to those who perished in autumn 1944 seaborne evacuations ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

The Puise memorial.
The Puise memorial. Source: ERR

A memorial to Estonians who died fleeing their country by sea in 1944 in the face of invading Soviet forces is to be formally unveiled on Puise beach, Lääne County, Saturday, ETV magazine show "Ringvaade" reported Friday.

"An estimated 5,000 people entered the sea, not to return," Arnold Aljaste, head of the Estonian Memorial Association (Eesti Memento Liit) told "Ringvaade".

"Everything that could float went to sea, including still-seaworthy boats, which went back and forth and made a lot of trips. There were motorcycles, cars, prams etc. here - the beach was clogged with them," he added.

Autumn 1944 saw tens of thousands of people fleeing Estonia for Sweden from Puise and other sites, many of whom did not survive the journey, succumbing to exposure, drowning or aerial attacks by Soviet planes.

The monument was designed by Aivar Simson, based on an idea from one escapee, Heidi Ivask, who was a babe-in-arms at the time.

Other refugees to have seen the memorial's unveiling include Jaak Maandi, then eight years old. Maandi's father Helmut had been secretary of state in the short-lived September-October 1944 Otto Tief government, which existed in the vacuum left by the fleeing Nazi German forces and ahead of the full occupation by the incoming Soviets.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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