Victims of what is known in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as the June deportations, which took place across were remembered on and around June 14, 76 years after 95,000 people were deported by Soviet forces from large swaths of territory ranging from the Baltics to Moldavia.
In Tallinn's Freedom Square, a memorial service was held at the foot of the War of Independence Victory Column at midday on Wednesday, ahead of which the square was filled with thousands of light blue balloons symbolizing tears.
Commemorative events were also held in other cities, including Pärnu, Jõhvi and Tartu, as well as among diaspora communitie abroad, including in Toronto.
As 2017 marks the Year of Children's and Youth Culture in Estonia, a special focus of this year's day of remembrance was children who suffered under crimes against humanity. Around 10,000 people were deported from Estonia in 1941, one third of whom were children.
Visitors to Freedom Square will find an overview of more than 12,000 names of the repressed to be directly affected by the events of 1941, including those deported and sent to prison camps, those who fled the country or hid as well as children born in families deported to Siberia.
The day of remembrance in Estonia was organized with the help of the Estonian Institute of Human Rights, MTÜ Tulipisar, the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory, students and volunteers from Tallinn Secondary School of Science, the Estonian National Youth Council, the Federation of Estonian Student Unions, the Estonian School Student Councils' Union, the Estonian Memento Union, the Museum of Occupations and the Ministry of Justice.
Memorial event at Toronto's City Hall draws crowd of over 500
On Tuesday evening, over 500 Canadians, including members of its Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Rusian and Polish communities, attended a memorial event and candle-lighting in Toronto's Nathan Phillips Square in the heart of downtown Toronto, according to a Baltic Federation of Canada press release.
"The Baltic communities in Canada must remain vigilant and maintain awareness of our history," said Marcus Kolga, president of the Estonian Central Council and one of the lead organizers of the event. "The Kremlin is actively working to falsify history: denying the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States, denying the deportation and even repression of the people of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, and rehabilitating and even glorifying Stalin's tyranny."
According to Andris Kesteris, president of the Latvian National Federation and the Baltic Federation, it is important for members of the Baltic diaspora communities in Canada to share their history as it constitutes part of Canada's national historical narrative. "We are forever grateful that our people, who fled the tragedy and terror of the Soviet occupation, were able to settle in Canada and become an important part of this great nation," he said.
Editor: Aili Vahtla