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I was born on 29 October 1932 at Mäksa farm, in the county of Viljandimaa, in Tarvastu township , in the village of Kuressaare.1 My family had been a farming family for many generations: my father Juhan Rennit’s forebears had begun keeping Mäksa farm at least as far back as 1780. My mother, Alice Johanna Rennit (born Lamson) was from Otsa farm, in the village of Kivilõppe, township of Suislepa. Many times in my life I have had to write the story of my life and hide the truth. Recently I found a copy of an autobiography I had written in 1952 when I applied for enrollment in the Estonian Agricultural Academy.2 I had just graduated from high school in the city of Viljandi, in Pärnu oblast, and I wanted to continue my studies in Tartu oblast.3 To enroll in university it was not enough to successfully pass the entrance examinations; one’s parents also had to be loyal to the Soviet government. Thus I wrote in my autobiographical report that the size of our farm was only 14 hectares, and that we had never used hired help. At that time my father was in a forced labor camp in Vorkuta. Accordingly, I wrote that we had been living apart from Father since 1943, and that there were thus no family members who had been punished by the Soviet regime. Further, no one among our close 1 The reader should not confuse this mainland village with the much larger town of the same name on the island of Saaremaa. 2 This is a reference to the anketa (see Glossary). 3  Pärnu and Tartu oblast: in 1950, the administrative-territorial divisions of Estonia were redrawn by the Soviet regime. The contrast can be seen in the terminology of the first and second paragraphs of Asta Luksepp’s life story. Asta Luksepp Born 1932 i3 Kirss.indb 351 7/17/09 5:47:50 AM 352 Estonian Life Stories relatives had been in the German army or belonged to any German organizations. In reality Father had been in the Home Guard, and two of my uncles had been in the Home Guard as well as the German army .4 One uncle and several relatives were living abroad—again a fact that I denied. After I had passed the examinations, I had to appear before the credentials committee. There they pored over my autobiography detail by detail, but I stuck to what I had written. I was sent out of the room while the committee deliberated. A little later I was called back into the room, and I was told I had been accepted into the Estonian Agricultural Academy. In March 1953, Papa Stalin died, and life started to get freer. But now I must go back to my childhood, which coincided with the economic peak of the Estonian Republic. In my home, there was an attitude of deep respect toward the Estonian War of Independence. My father had fought in it, and my aunt Eliise had served as a nurse. The legacy of my childhood was reverence and love for my fatherland. Indeed, the song Mu meelen kuldne kodukotus (I remember the golden roof of my home) was written by one of my relatives, and the places mentioned there are from the area around my home.5 This became a popular song, and not even the occupying armies could keep people from singing it. It has been a strong moral support for me on my life journey. When I was a child, my father’s mother Reet took care of me; she lived with us. Grandmother Reet’s forebears on her father’s side had been free peasants and had owned a mill.6 That was also the reason for the family name Veske. And so in my veins there flows a drop or two of free peasant’s blood, and this has given me the courage to fight against injustice. My father belonged to the Defense League and my mother to the Women’s Auxiliary.7 In 1934 my father was elected chief magistrate of Tarvastu, and he held that office until 1940. Father also was on the board of the Tarvastu Farmers’ Association,8 as well as its last president . He taught us that one has to know how to stand up for oneself, 4  Home Guard (Omakaitse), see Glossary. 5 Andres Rennit and the song Mu meelen kuldne kodukotus, see Hilja...


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