restricted access Heljut Kapral
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Most of my forebears on my father’s side came from a fishing village on the Kandle beach in Haljala township. Father would tell stories about his grandfather Joosep, who had served for many years in the Tsar’s army. After attaining the rank of corporal, he was assigned to train soldiers. After his retirement people started to call him Corporal-Joseph, and this was how we later got our family name. In 1914 my father, was mobilized into the Tsar’s army. During World War I, while on the front lines, he was wounded by shrapnel. After his recovery in hospital he was not sent back to the front, and instead went to work at the Otsa engine depot repairing locomotives. While still in Russia, he survived the horrors of the October Revolution.1 It was not until 1921 that he succeeded in officially repatriating to Estonia.2 He arrived home to find that his parents were dead, survived by his sisters Elvine, Pauline, and Salme, through whom he was later to meet my mother. My mother’s side of the family came from the townships of Simuna and Laiuse. Mother’s father Madis and her grandfather Mihkel had both been manor overseers. One of my mother’s unforgettable memories was picking blueberries in the summer with her grandfather Toomas, when she was six years old. Before beginning the picking, her grandfather knelt on the blanket spread out on the grass next to Mother and prayed. He put his hands on the little girl’s head and blessed 1 October Revolution, referring to the second phase of the Russian Revolution (1917–1918), see Glossary. 2 Repatriation (opteerumine) to Estonia in 1920–1921, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and the beginning of the independent Estonian republic. Heljut Kapral Born 1923 i3 Kirss.indb 125 7/17/09 5:47:32 AM 126 Estonian Life Stories her, and the son who was to be born to Mother one day, when Estonia was free. In 1914 Mother was married, and a year later awaited the birth of her first child. She had hoped for a son, although Estonia was not yet a free country. A daughter was born, who was given the name Hilja. In 1920 an epidemic of scarlet fever claimed both her husband and daughter, who were buried together in the same grave. Weighed down by her sadness, the inconsolable widow mourned her dear ones. Time passed, and a girlfriend’s brother crossed her path. This was­August Kapral, whom she married in 1922. I was born in Tallinn Central Hospital on 19 June 1923, early in the morning on a Tuesday, at 4:30 AM to be exact. I was the son my great-grandfather had foretold and blessed ahead of time, looking forward to the time when Estonia would be free. I was christened by Pastor Sommer. My aunt Salme suggested the name Heljut, which reminded her of the Biblical Elihud of the line of David. The first event I have memories about is suffering from diphtheria when I was two and a half years old. I lay in Aunt Salme’s lap, wrapped in a blue quilted blanket. I felt terrible. I was given an injection in my thigh, upon which I lost consciousness. When I opened my eyes again, I saw Aunt Salme bustling about above me. Most likely what saved my life was diphtheria antitoxin, which had only just become available. In 1927 my sister Salme was born. We all rejoiced over her. My mother stayed home, Father went to work in the railroad warehouse in Tallinn. Peace and mutual affection ruled our household. My maternal grandmother Leno had been religious from a young age, and my mother shared the same beliefs. Father had had fewer dealings with religion. My mother became a believer in 1930, my father some years later. This brought many changes to our home. Cigarettes and strong drink disappeared ; my father and mother grew even closer to one another. My cousin Endel and I began attending Sunday school. I began school on 1 September 1931 at Pelgulinn Elementary School. My cousin and I were bench mates. Endel was a better student than I was. We spent our summer holidays at my grandparents’ farm in Kiltsi, where a pure stream of clear water flowed through the pasture, and it was fun to splash, fish, and swim. Grandfather’s house in Kiltsi was over 100 years old.3 The farmhouse had...