"Kuhu me lähme? / Off We Go!" with Triin Kerge at ARS Project Space in Tallinn, Estonia 2020
The exhibition presents seven women who were forced to leave Estonia as children in the 1940s. Aksel Haagensen looks at his dual nationality alongside the story of his grandmother who fled Estonia in 1944, ultimately settling in Australia. Triin Kerge focuses on the personal side of collective memory and six women who were deported to Siberia as children during the 1949 mass deportation.
Around 80,000 people escaped Estonia in the mass exodus of refugees in 1944. People in their early middle age and children were most numerous among the refugees. They thought they weren’t leaving permanently, but once they realised there would be no return, they started looking to build their new lives abroad.
More than 20,000 people were deported from Estonia to Siberia during the 1949 mass deportation; 6,000 of these were children. They didn’t know where they were going nor for how long. Estonians in Siberia were only allowed to return home at the end of the 1950s – the children born and raised in Siberia themselves had to acclimatise to a new environment when they later arrived in Estonia.
Most Estonians know someone who has been affected by the deportations or the mass exodus of refugees. This generation of children is the last to have a personal experience of these historical events, which have also left their mark on subsequent generations.