Saturday, April 28, 2012

Uprooted: A Story of Estonia (Part V)

THIS IS A CONTINUING STORY ABOUT ESTONIA DURING WORLD WAR II FROM THE POINT OF VIEW OF RALPH KAND, A YOUNG MAN WITH A WITHERED LEG.

* * *
During the months Karl was in hiding, his country began to change. Banks were closed, churches were locked up, and important people were arrested. Statues of Lenin and pictures of Stalin and Lenin were erected in pubic buildings. Flags with the Hammer and Sickle were prominently hung in pubic places.

One night the following spring, Ralph's cousin Uno came to their home and said that Karl wanted to see him. Late that night Ralph and Uno rode the train out to where Karl had been hiding in a crawl space beneath his uncle's house. Karl had decided to give himself up and wanted to say goodbye before he went away. After that night Ralph never saw his brother again.

* * *

They called him Kand, which means Root. 

Estonia is one of several small countries located in what is known as the Baltic Region of Eastern Europe. Like its neighbors, Lithuania and Latvia, the Estonian peoples have suffered much at the hands of larger empires which overran their lands at various periods of history. 

In the very earliest part of the 19th century, the land was owned by Russia, but the Germans were their landlords. The half million Estonians were serfs who were treated cruelly by their foreign masters. 

Up until this time people had no last names. One day everyone was given a name. The German overseers decided it would be easier to identify people this way. 

Out in the fields German commanders would call an assembly and give names to the people. Sometimes the Commander would stand up on a wagon. Looking at each one in the crowd he would say, "This one will be called Brook" because he saw a brook. Another he called Farmer because he was a farmer. He gave whatever name came to his mind. There was one man who had a hard heart toward these cruel oppressors and when the commander looked at him he said, "I know you," and the German called him Kand, which is the immovable root of a tree stump. He knew the man was very stubborn. 

It was this same Kand who later led a famous uprising against the German oppressors. 176 men were forced to run the gauntlet and were put to death. Their deaths helped mobilize the people so that serfdom was abolished in 1819. 

This was Ralph Kand's great great great grandfather. 

TO BE CONTINUED

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