"Wherever you are, we will get you." These words, beamed to Sweden over the Soviet-controlled Estonian radio, haunted the memories of a 21-year-old housewife and her friends seeking entry into the U.S. last week. They were the leitmotif of a journey that had seemed endless. "I fled from Estonia to Finland because of the Germans," said the girl, on Ellis Island. "A year later, in 1944, I fled from Finland to Sweden because of the Russians." Her shipmates—steelwork-ers, a glassblower, weavers, seamstresses, mechanics, lawyers, farmers, fishermen—had similar tales to tell. An Estonian farmer told how his 76-acre farm had been seized when the Russians decided he was a kulak. A girl remembered the sight of three boys, their eyes pierced, their fingers cracked, their hair torn out for resisting Russian conscription.
Sixty-nine refugees who feared that the Russian threat might reach into Sweden for them crowded into the Prolific, a blunt-nosed fishing schooner, about half as big as the Mayflower. They had sailed over 6,000 miles of ocean to reach a U.S. haven. They had weathered storms in the Bay of Biscay and off Cape Finisterre. They had traded their clothes for grapes and coconuts in Madeira and broken their steering gear in a hurricane off Bermuda. Under leaky hatches in fetid, 90° heat, their women had nursed children sick with chicken pox. After 60 days at sea, they had put in at Wilmington, N.C., and been shipped by train to New York.
Since 1945 more than 230 Baltic refugees have come to the U.S. in cockleshells even smaller than the Prolific. The Estonia, which brought Kou Walter and his wife and children to Florida, was only 47 feet long. The Erma, which sailed from Stockholm to Little Creek, Va., charting her course on a standard schoolboys' map of the Atlantic, measured 37 feet.
Most of the passengers of the first five boatloads to arrive in the U.S. have been given visas, and many have taken out their first citizenship papers. Others have been paroled to the Salvation Army. So far, none have been returned to Russia, and, though immigration officials are reluctant to say so, none are likely to be.
teisipäev, märts 21, 2006
Reliving the Creepy Past: Part II
Somebody asked to read Time stories from the Cold War era, and though there are less of them, they are still quite intriguing. Here's one from October 1948.