A few days ago I had the pleasure of meeting an honorary consul of Estonia at his residence at Wainakae Beach. Our encounter was brief as I was needing to get back to my car where my daughter was waiting, but the conversation we had within those 5 minutes showed me the life my grandfather could've had, if it weren't for the Soviet Union.
During the Second World War when Estonia sat so unfortunately between the brawling nations of Germany and Russia, my grandfather's family - proud, educated folk - fled Estonia in fear of repercussions which given that they were, well, proud and educated folk, would've very likely happened. Their journey took them to Germany at first but then, after a while, to Australia.
Except, my grandfather couldn't go. He got drafted and upon his return from the army, his family was gone and alongside it the freedom to go. Borders were closed, Estonia was part of the Soviet Union.
For as long as I remember my family has kept in touch with our Australian relatives. They wrote us letters - sometimes opened by the officials before they reached the recipients - of how they were doing and my grandparents wrote back; back and forth. Because of the confined nature of the Soviet Union, my grandfather never had the opportunity to go see them, and they never had the opportunity to see Estonia again.
In the nineties when the borders opened again, I think my family rallied around my grandfather in order to put all of our funds together and make it a possibility for him to go see his family in Australia for the last time again, but... I am not quite sure if I remember it correctly, I think my grandfather politely refused the offer. I think he wasn't sure if he would want to come back again, and to be torn between two countries and two families like that - his parents and siblings in Australia, but his wife and his children all in Estonia - was too much for him to contemplate and so he didn't go.
My grandfather died a few years ago.
But why I am writing about it in the first place is that, the man who is now the honorary consul of Estonia in New Zealand, at his lovely residence at Waikanae Beach, is also a Second World War refugee from Estonia except that... he managed to flee, but my grandfather didn't.
I looked at the Estonian tricolor proudly waving in the ocean breeze at Waikanae, and said a silent prayer to my granddad.
I told him that I am proud of the life he lead in Estonia, and the family that has followed. And most of all I was grateful to him for my existence because had he fled Estonia like the rest of his family did, my mother would've never happened, and neither would have I.