Heinar`s Website

                          My Life in Nomme

 
 
From the beginning of May 1950 our family became inhabitants of Nomme, 10 km from the center of Tallinn. Before the war Nomme had been its own town but after it became a part of Tallinn. Our new home was situated on the corner of Sobra(Friend) street and Vabaduse puiestee (Avenue of Freedom). My Aunt`s house was big enough, but unfortunately the second floor was rented out to the Znamensky family. The father Mr. Znamensky spoke Estonian fluently as did his son, but his wife did not speak a word of it. Since my Russian was not good yet I rarely tried to talk  with her.

We had to stay in one room with our family. Though this was the biggest room in the house, it was too small for three of us. Some of our furniture had to be placed in my aunt`s rooms. She and my grandmother each had their own rooms. One of them was without a stove. Our room had no stove either, only the bricks from the chimney flue. For some reason they did not get warm enough to heat our room well. Since winters at that time were often quite cold it was not the best experience we had. I was young and did not feel this discomfort. Mother sewed with her skillful hands making us warm clothes and quilts.

Our house was situated in the corner of Sobra street as I have already said. The next district was empty covered with wooded heath and heather. (Actually "nomme" means heath in Estonian). There were some trenches and bunkers from the last war. Ideal place for playing. Unfortunately this only stayed ideal for a very short time. A year after our coming the building became what they called Finnish barracks used for families of Russian navy officers. The peaceful life ended. Like in Rakvere here came a lot of Russians with their children bringing a completely different life style with them. Fighting between Estonian and Russian boys began, though in newspapers they wrote about a big and everlasting friendship between Estonians and Russians. Russian boys had a habit of walking around with big gangs and they never gave up beating Estonian boys when they were walking alone. Dirty behavior has always been characteristic to Russians. The worse thing was when the thievings began. Before then most  Estonians never locked their sheds. There was no need to do this. But now they had to or find an empty room next morning. One of those officers visited my father and wanted to buy some wood we had in the yard. Father refused and a lot of this wood came up missing during the night.
 
My father got a job as a civil engineer in a building trust. I am not sure if he couldn't work as an architect any longer, as later he belonged to the Union of Architects. In his first job in Tallinn he was a building engineer in a schoolhouse on Valdeku street quite near our home. I often visited him. The distance from home was only four bus stops. In the building area I had the freedom to do anything as the son of the engineer. I watched masons working and by myself understood the technique of the masonry. Later when I was playing there with bricks I built my own small wall. The building  contractor praised me for my good work.

My aunt worked as a clerk in a shoe store and helped my mother get a job there. The shop was small, but very luxuriously furnished. There were three clerks in the store and always a lot of customers. Every time I was in  town I visited mother.

As well as my aunt, my grandmother on my fathers side lived in the house. She was quite old already, but helped in the kitchen and in the garden. Getting along with aunt and grandmother was difficult for my mother. As I understood later, they did not think she was  the best candidate for my father. Mother had been a widow and had no property. Sometimes those quarrels were quite sharp. Aunt was very quarrelsome and even our neighbors on the second floor could hear this. The same with my Grandmother. Since she was half deaf she could not understand everything others talked about and she guessed that all they said was bad. Because of this she wasn't very friendly, she acted according to her understanding. Luckily those "home wars" did not last for a long  and between these quarrels they were more or less friendly. To me those quarrels were very unpleasant and I am sure my mother suffered a lot, because father never took her part in them. His position was not the best one. His mother and sister against his wife.

My life in Nomme offered a lot of entertainment. There was a big garden around the house and outside the garden there was a lot to do. In the long run I became acquainted with other boys on Sobra street. They all were younger than I. In Rakvere I had to be the "nest egg" in our company. First of all I met Henn Eller who was two years younger, but there were also Arvo Kalvik who was later my best friend and Toomas Kann who was killed by Russian criminals many years later.

My new school was situated quite near. It was another small one. Though it was very comfortable for its size, it was not the best choice. Later in another school I had to study very hard to get to the same level as my classmates. There were 12 classrooms in the school. Most of the classmates were friendly. I do not remember any school violence happening. There was some bickering, of course, but they were not violent. I found new friends there.


We had a lot of activity. We went out for every kind of sport, we walked and did hundreds of other things. Skiing was our favorite sport and our surroundings offered a lot of possibilities. There were small hills not far from our home with the ski jump. Later I became a ski jumper. Not a very good one as I once landed on my face and broke my nose. This stopped my career as a ski jumper.
 
For some reason or other our garden was the best place for gatherings. One reason could be that it was situated almost in the center of all of our homes and it was big. My parents and aunt were content, because we never did anything wrong.

I had to do some homework. One of them was sawing firewood. Father got a lot of planks from his work we used for heating. Mostly these were staging material with a lot of nails in them. We had to be very careful sawing them. Chopping was father`s job first, later I did this. Piling and bringing inside  was my job. Father did not bother with this in the warm season. Because of this we often had to saw evenings in the winter in a cold shed by dim light. I hated those evenings, but only until the first few draws were done. Later I have noticed that my unwillingness of some work was only at the beginning.  My other duty was bringing milk from a cow  someone owned on the next street. I was not very enthusiastic, but there was no one who could do this except me so I did not argue. At the same time not one of my friends had any duties. Maybe it is was better, that I had some. As this gave me more sense of responsibility.

The most important task was standing with mother in every kind of line. There was no lack of food but some goods were deficit. One of them was sugar. It took hours to stay there waiting for our turn. Sometimes there was not enough sugar in the shop and after waiting two or three hours we had to go home with empty hands. Sugar was sold according to the number of persons who stayed in  line. Sometimes a woman from the neighboring  house "borrowed" me to stay with her. It was not pleasant, but after being with her I got some sugar as my salary. There were other "exotic" foods, too. I understood much later, that coffee is made of some kind of beans, not of rye.

Mother had a lot of homework. Her life was not easy, because her working day lasted practically from the early morning till the late evening. The shop she worked was opened 10 o`clock in the morning and closed 7 pm. She had to leave home at 9 am and usually she came home half past nine in the evening. In addition she had to cook our food, cleaning house and repair and wash our clothes. How did she find time for all this, I do not know. Father never cleaned anything and I never saw him dusting or putting things in their place. I was too young to help mother. And unfortunately I was not very eager even later to do this. Father`s example might not have been so good.
 
I do not remember anything special happening in my school days. Studying was easy as it had been. My classmates were friendly. One of them, Valdo Kaare,  who had one short leg and used crutches was my good friend. Though he could not do all things the others did, he was always very joyful and ready for everything. Another friend was Georg Kaasik. His mother was a Russian and maybe that is why he preferred the typical Russian. Because of that our relation was sometimes quite acute. There was only one boy who tried to spite me, but it did not bother me.

My first class teacher was a very sympathetic young woman. I can remember only her surname - Liia. From the fifth class we got a new class teacher, Ristna, who was young, too, gentle, but sometimes quite demanding. She taught us mathematics. I also remember  our gymnastic teachers, the  Multer family who were fervent athletes. Mrs. Multer was an active and good sailor. Our principal was Betty Piir. She was an authoritarian, but by the pupils view a bit comical. Her favorite word was "meaning" which she used everywhere in her stories. Once my desk partner (in Estonia two pupils sit in the one desk) instead of listening to the history, counted, how many times she used her favorite word. At the end of the lesson she had used it 98 times. He asked her a question trying to even it to 100. But alas! This time she did not use the word "meaning".

There were quite often obligatory vaccinations every year. I could not stand them. Twice after an injection I lost consciousness. There was always a campaign, like in the Soviet Union there always had been. Once almost half of our pupils were sent to the clinic for a checkup. A couple of days earlier I had chopped firewood and had some blisters on my palms. The doctor who checked us did not like them and so I was sent to the clinic with others. Being in the clinic no one even looked at my blisters and almost all of us were returned to school.

As a pioneer I had some duties, too. From time to time the pioneer meetings were organized. A lot of hullabaloo for nothing! We played some war games and made some banners with communistic appeals. No one even bothered to read them. There was a young woman in our school who was working as a pioneer leader. I am not sure if she had other duties, but I saw her every day at school. Almost all of our pupils over 12 were pioneers. The younger  ones were called children of October (after the Great October Socialist Revolution).
 
There were some evening parties in the school every year. One of them a New Year`s party. Christmas parties were forbidden in the Soviet Union. When I was in the seventh grade there was a concert at school, where our most famous actors in Estonia acted. Nowadays it is impossible to imagine that actors and singers of this "calibre" come to visit such a small school, like ours. Talking about  famous people our school was in correspondence with one of the most famous Estonian writers, Oskar Luts. He always answered to our letters. I remember the last letter we got from him. It had been written in his humorous manner. Later we understood, that he was very ill already and had died soon after.

There lived a young man on Sobra street who worked as a photographer in the editor`s office of the pioneer`s newspaper. I do not know how he discovered me with my friend but he asked us to pose for a photo about young pioneers preparing for winter sport. At the agreed day he came with his requisites - skates with boots and ski-sticks. We tried to do everything to make readers  believe our action. An attentive reader could see, that this boot I hold in the photo I could easily have fit both of my feet. I do not remember if we got some kind of honor or not. Few days after that I got two letters from different part of Estonia. Two girls had seen me in that photo and wanted me to correspond with them. Both of these did not last for long. I was not a good pen pal and there was no time, either. My friend could be a little disappointed because he did not get any letter anywhere.


 
 
 
The most important event was the death of the Great Leader and The Best Friend of the Nations Jossif Stalin in 5-th of March 1953. A few days before there had been announcements about his sickness on the  radio. We were at school, when his death was published. We, pupils had the reason to be glad, because the next school day was a day off for us. Commonly people reacted in different way. Most  Estonians were glad, that the days of horror are over, but at the same time we did not expect any good coming from East (Soviet Union). The Russians were very sad, of course and Russian women cried openly in the streets. This made us, Estonians double happy. On the funeral day we all listened to the radio (no one had heard about TV yet). The famous Russian speaker Levitan the same man, who had announced the war beginning, read with his thundering voice funeral events.  Banners waved, trains and factories sounded their whistles and guns fired in salute when the man who brought such a horror and fear was taken to the mausoleum where his colleague Lenin awaited his killer. Mourning lasted at least two weeks. All entertainment was forbidden. The darkest period of history of the Soviet Union had ended.
 
In the September 1954. our family had another big event. My aunt got rid of our neighbors on the second floor. At last we could live spaciously. Now we had three rooms instead of one. One of these rooms was a small one only 6,5 m2. This suited me well. Now I had my private life and could call my friends to visit me any time. Not a lot them had their own room.

One thing I was dreaming about was a bicycle. All my friends had one. To make a longer trip I had to sit on the carrier of some friend`s bicycle. This was quite an unpleasant way to travel. Only later when I was in the high school I got a chance to buy an old "Diamant" for 10 rubles. (Middle salary was 400 rubles this time). It was a heavy and
used one who's last owner was the well-known conductor now living in the USA Neeme Jarvi. Of course he was not famous at this time. Now I could go on all my trips alone. I rode practically every day short and long trips. Mother said laughing that I came even to the dinner table on my bicycle. Fashion in that time demanded that every redundant part had to be removed from the bicycle. Even the mudguards. This often caused wet pants front and back. Later we made longer trips - 500 km and more.

Unnoticed years went by and I was becoming a young man. My youth had brought me joys and sorrows. Looking back at my life and this time I have to say, that some prank should not have been done and attitude about life could have been more serious, but boys are boys. Not one of them think so much about the future. Who knows what kind of life I would have had in another way. I am content with this life I have lived and what it has brought with it.