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I can clearly imagine the August night when my mother, already in labor, walked two to three kilometers to her sister’s house in Rõuge. From there they drove her to the hospital. Father stayed behind at the neighbor’s house, partying in the sauna, along with some Latvians, probably. He never cared about “women’s business,” and children began to matter when they could be put to work and to good use. But maybe the situation just before I was born was not as bad as I think. From what I have been told, my paternal grandmother Emilie Allas accompanied my mother through the thick woods. At any rate, I was born on 19 August 1973 in the old Võru hospital , and the birth was normal in every way. I was driven home in a truck, most likely in the cab. Home meant Sänna, the village where writers Artur Adson and Juhan Jaik were born, but it is a questionable thing to boast about such things in this story. In Sänna lived my maternal grandmother Elsa Kivi and my grandfather Arnold Kivi. Sänna was my home, in the literal sense of the world until 1988, but in a more indirect way, forever. It is hard to remember any marks of Soviet society from my childhood ; fortunately, a small child does not know how to regard them in this abstract way. My mother worked in the laboratory at the Võru hospital , and my father at the Võru meat factory. In the 1960s, Mother and Father bought the upper story of a house in Võru, but they did not spend much time there. Instead, they bounced back and forth from town—Sänna or Võru, to the country. I grew up mostly in Sänna, and was raised by my grandmother and grandfather. Life was more or less Tiia Allas Born 1973 i3 Kirss.indb 495 7/17/09 5:48:00 AM 496 Estonian Life Stories normal until I turned four or, to be more exact, until the birth of my brother Anti on 26 November 1977. In those days, an infectious disease referred to as staphylococcus was rampant, and many newborns died of it. As far as I remember, it was a severe intestinal illness. Anti was born a bit prematurely, but that was in itself no problem. Some time later he was back in the hospital with staphylococcus. Recently I heard from my aunt that at upon demand of my father, and with his signature, the doctors had given Anti a heavy dose of antibiotics at a critical moment. That most probably was what saved his life. At that point my mother’s nerves could not hold out, and she was put in the psychiatric hospital, first in Võru, then Tartu, then Jämejala in Viljandi. I should add that it would be possible to probe and be more precise about what really happened, but I feel I am not up to it. Even now, at the age of 27. That was an extremely dark time in our family’s story, and I do not want to stir up all the bad things that happened. At any rate, Mother collapsed and went to the hospital, and my sick infant brother Anti and I were left in the care of our Sänna grandparents . We called Grandmother “Emmu” and Grandfather “Vantsi.” At that time, Emmu was already 66 years old, and Vants 69. They had their own place and the livestock to tend, and it was not easy for them. Father rarely showed up, and had never even touched his children— he himself had probably never been treated like a human being, held and cuddled. One can only imagine Emmu and Vants’ constant worry about the children and their mother. I do remember that from time to time, when the most critical stage was over, Emmu would go to the hospital with Anti, and I would stay at home with Vants. My aunts, Mother’s sisters, helped too. Mother’s younger sister Liivi and her husband worked at the Võru dairy. When the dairy trucks started out on their rounds from Võru, she would pack fresh kefir along, which was good for the little boy’s sick belly. In those days it was already practically impossible to get fresh kefir at the village store, and Grandfather did not have the time to stand around waiting for the...


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