Weekly: Tank removal brings closure for family who once farmed the area

The Narva River.
The Narva River. Source: "Osoon"

Tuesday's removal of a controversial Soviet-era tank monument had a very personal dimension to it to one family, who once farmed the area where it was sited, on the banks of the Narva River, only to face upheaval and heartache during World War Two and the ensuing, nearly half-a-century-long, Soviet occupation of Estonia, weekly Maaleht writes.

The village of Vepsküla, just north of Narva and now organizationally a part of the city's municipality,  looked completely different before the war, from what it does now, Tiia Vann, whose mother, Erna Haberkorn, told Maaleht's Liis Seljamaa (link in Estonian), noting that the riverbank consisted mostly of farms at that time.

While Tiia praised this week's decision to remove and relocate the Narva tank, this was tinged with poignancy that her mother, who passed away last year at the age of 98, did not get to live to see the event.

Proficient in the German language, an having a German-sounding second name, (Haberkorn, formerly spelt Aberkorn), Erna had as a young woman acted as an interpreter for German occupying forces during their time in Estonia, 1941-1944.

While Erna's brother, Verner, fled to Sweden in the face of the Soviet troops occupation of Estonia, later ending up in Toronto, Erna opted to stay, literally at the last minute. stepping off a boat carrying refugees across the Batic, which was about to leave. rather than cause her mother further distress by leaving too.

The remaining family nonetheless had had to flee the Narva area in early 1944 as the front approached, and sought shelter in the small Ida-Viru County villages of Moldova (unrelated to the country of the same name - ed.) and Varja. but for Erna Haberkorn this was the last time she saw Narva – whose old town was virtually razed to the ground in the fighting through 1944 – even as she had felt, as a farmer's daughter, somewhat inferior to local schoolchildren from more well-heeled backgrounds

Erna got married after the war, in 1947, with Tiia born a couple of years later, and the family settled first in Jõhvi, then in the nearby village of Aa, in a farmhouse which Tiia found comparatively spacious, even leaving aside the often asinine Soviet approach to collectivization in the Estonian countryside.

With the restoration of Estonia's independence coming in 1991, Tiia Vann had hoped to potentially get all the lost land back, including the riverside plot,  but found out from her job at the time – she worked at the heritage protection board (Muinsuskaitseamet) – that, as a monument, this was not going to be so straightforward.

Her mother Erna subsequently lived in Kohtla-Järve, and ultimately in Tallinn, and while Tiia often drove past the tank monument, she never had reason to stop – until this week that is, when she was able to finally see the tank being towed away.

"Now I'm thinking of visiting that area and not only exploring the riverside from a boat," she told Maaleht, adding that she hopes the matter has now been laid to rest, and that those people who are still congregating at the tank's site, will gradually melt away.

The original Maaleht piece (in Estonian, and with plenty of interesting photos) is here.

Maaleht is an agricultural weekly and owned by the Ekspress Meedia group.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: Maaleht, Liis Seljamaa

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