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Pärnu to erect memorial to Estonians who fled in 1944

Pärnu city center bridge.
Pärnu city center bridge. Source: ERR

A memorial to Estonians who fled abroad in 1944 during World War II will be installed in Pärnu, where many people started their journeys. The sculpture will be crafted by Elo Liiv and placed on the left bank of the Pärnu River near the Kesklinn bridge.

The initiative was proposed by Kristi Allpere, who fled from the city with her family when she was a young child. At the time, the city was being bombed as the German Army retreated and the Soviets were about to arrive.

The family first went to Sweden by boat and then moved on to North America.

More than 70,000 Estonians fled the advancing Red Army in 1944, which then occupied Estonia for almost 50 years. They are sometimes known as "boat refugees".

Several years ago a monument was erected in Puise in Lääne County to mark the event, which sparked Allpere's idea.

Statue commemorating the mass refugee flight of 1944 at Puise beach, Lääne County Source: 1944. aasta suurpõgenemine / Mass Flight of 1944

"Two years ago, I had the idea that Pärnu should have one too, because so many people left here. It became my and my husband's heartfelt wish to see if we could make this thing happen," Allpere told Tuesday's "Aktuaalne kaamera".

The memorial will be located at the place where boats left Pärnu to start their journeys.

Sculptor Elo Liiv is currently working on the design, which should be completed by the end of the year. Then fundraising will start.

"We are setting up a donations account in Estonia, as well as in the U.S. and Canada. We are working with the countries of the Estonian World Council where there are refugees. Certainly, most of the money will come from Canada and the U.S. We are asking for donations in memory of our parents and ancestors," Allpere said.

Mayor of Pärnu Romek Kosenkranius. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The City of Pärnu has been cooperating with the initiative for 1.5 years already. Mayor Romek Kosenkranius said several locations have been considered.

The Heritage Protection Society has now deemed the location acceptable.

The events in 1944 are remembered across Estonia in June every year. In Tallinn, the "Boat of Tears" is placed on Freedom Square.

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Editor: asmus Kuningas, Helen Wright

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