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The story of my life began with my parents making a little mischief , as a result of which I came into this world on 5 December 1929, in Tallinn. We were living at the time in Helsinki, but my mother came to Tallinn to give birth to me. My father was working at the Vesijohton Liike in Helsinki, laying pipeline for the municipal waterworks, while he was also coach for the Finnish national wrestling team. But then the times turned paskased as they said in Finland, and there was unemployment and financial shortages all over the world. Everyone was shouting “Work and bread!” When all of that happened my old man came back from Finland to “Mary’s Land.”1 We found ourselves a roof to live under on the outskirts of Tallinn in Lilleküla, at the home of my maternal grandmother. Mother’s sister was also living there. We lived all piled up together like anchovies in a tin. Father had neither money nor work, but my old man was not the type to go out in the streets carrying a red flag and making noise about it. One February night, when the moon was shining and the weather was as cold as a whore’s heart, my old man dressed me warmly, while he himself wore only a suitcoat and a tweed cap. He loaded me onto a sled and took off at a run. When we got to the top of a hill, my old man jumped on the sled too, and down we went, over and over again. My old man said “This is what you call Shrovetide sledding, boy!”2 I was three years old at the time, and the other kids laughed at me for 1  Maarjamaa (Mary’s Land). 2 Shrovetide. Sledding on Fat Tuesday, the day before the beginning of Lent, was supposed to bring good luck, and ensure the fertility of cattle and fields. Raimo Loo Born 1929 i3 Kirss.indb 419 7/17/09 5:47:55 AM 420 Estonian Life Stories speaking funny: I talked to them in Finnish, just like I did with the Finnish kids. My mother’s sister worked in Toru-Tõnisson’s office, and somehow found my father a job. At that time they founded the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, located at No. 20 Pikk Street, just opposite the Russian Embassy. Toru-Tõnisson had central heating put in, and since my old man was working there, they let him live in the building for a year to make sure the heating and the pipes were working. So he became custodian-caretaker. Life was good again, just like a rose garden. Free rent, heat, electricity, and 100 kroons a month. The loveliest memory of my childhood, and of the homeland in general, was spending time with my grandmother in Randvere. I must have been five or six years old. Every morning when the sun rose, the old lady heated the wood stove until it glowed, and had the pan sizzling . I was handed a basket and told: “The fishermen are coming.” Sleepy-eyed, I took off for the beach. The men were just pulling the boat up on the shore. They threw some flatfish into my basket, and I ran back up the hill. The flatfish were still alive, but my grandmother ’s knife flashed like God’s own lightning. What wonderful smells rose from that pan! Then it was time to run to the stable where the farmer’s wife was milking the cow. I stood there next to the cat with a cup in my hand, both of us waited for our share of the stream of warm, foaming milk. I was a city slicker. The Randvere village children did not like me at all. They took every chance they got to beat me up. Once three or four boys cornered me, their fists ready, “Now we’ll let you have it!” I was so scared I stopped breathing. I bent down, picked up a few handfuls of sand and threw it in their eyes, kneed a few of them in the groin, and then put my great long legs to work. I hightailed it along the beach until I was completely out of breath. Sometimes I would lie on my back on the beach for hours, watching the fast-moving clouds changing shapes in the sky. Grandmother would get quite worried when I had been away from home...


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MARC Record
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