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My family name comes from a distant forefather, the blacksmith of the Vastseliina church manor, who crafted the rooster that is still perched on top of the Vastseliina church tower to this day. That was the era when people were given family names, and the story goes that the pastor at the time, Carl Masing (1814–1859) suggested he choose a family name to correspond with his trade. After all, what matters most in blacksmithing is iron (raud) and a hammer (vasar). Several generations continued in the blacksmithing trade. The family moved to Noodasküla at the edge of the township, which later belonged to Lasva township. Even my grandfather kept to the blacksmith’s trade. There have not been any wealthy farmers in the family. The Hinda farm was divided in three, and a third of the original farm is currently in my hands. I was born at Hinda farm in Noodasküla on 30 July 1939, a citizen of the Republic of Estonia. With this fact comes the ethical responsibility to act in a manner worthy of an Estonian citizen, regardless of which government is in power or which flag is flying at any given moment . My father was a small farmer, with a farm of sixteen hectares. My mother came from Rõuge parish; as the oldest daughter of a family of many children, she had to earn extra money outside the home from a young age. She learned to weave, and worked as a weaver at a Petseri firm, even for some time after she was married, and narrowly missed perishing in the great fire in Petseri on 24 May 1939. My childhood and the local surroundings are among the most important factors that shaped my personality and my destiny. I lived off the beaten track, not easily reached by innovations and subsidies, nor Valdur Raudvassar Born 1939 i3 Kirss.indb 457 7/17/09 5:47:57 AM 458 Estonian Life Stories by the pathologies of the times. My home was built in 1929, and the thatched storage shed rested on four stones. The old threshing barn still had the smell of the last century, though it had not been used for threshing for a long time. We did all of the farm work ourselves. A herdsman was hired from outside the family, usually from Setumaa, where it was common for people to hire themselves out as seasonal herdsmen. At fourteen I plowed the vegetable patch by myself with a two-horse plow, but that was after the kolkhozes came,1 and all the rest of the land had been taken away. I have no memories of the first period of Estonian independence, nor of its collapse. My personal memories begin with the German occupation. In rural locations off the beaten path this was a very peaceful, relatively happy time. From time to time the Germans would ride by along the road on their motorcycles and stop to ask for milk. They always paid in cash, or offered something else in exchange. The police wore republic-era uniforms, and the township government was in the hands of the same people as during the Estonian time. The first time I came to town I saw the swastika flying above the German military headquarters. The town hall was marked by the blue-black-and-white flag. I think of this as a happy occupation. Of course there was no democracy to speak of, but where do you find democracy anyway, when there is a war going on? At home the situation was regarded as unavoidable, and nothing bad was said about the Germans until the summer of 1944: “The Germans are retreating, and our boys are being left alone to defend us. The Germans want to turn us over to the Russians, even though they promised they would never let the Russians come in again, as long as we helped them out.” As a child I thought Hitler was the ruler of a foreign state, but that our men were fighting alongside them against a common enemy. I was already quite a big boy when I found out that a fair number of Estonians from northern Estonia had fought in the Red Army. To my knowledge there was not a single man from our area who fought in the Russian army. Ours was quite a poor village, and thus the 1941 deportations2 did not touch us, though there were some arrests. Several of our relatives disappeared without...

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