Despite the global pandemic, our Summer Schools were attended by 80 students, teachers and young historians from more than 13 countries. Two weeks from 25 to 30 July and 1 to 6 August were filled with discussions about 20th century European totalitarianism and war history, visits to known and unknown memorial sites, as well as exchange of professional experience and knowledge.
We would like to thank our Researcher-Project Manager and Coordinator of Summer University Eli Pilve, the German Embassy in Tallinn, and the Former Estonian Forest Brothers Association for their support.
Learn more about our participants’ experience during Summer Schools – testimonials by teacher Ignas Juskevicius (Lithuania) and student Sun Hui (Hong Kong) can be found below!
History teacher Ignas Juskevicius from Lithuania, participant of the 2021 Summer University for teachers and young historians
I am Ignas and I was born in 1986 in Lithuania. Yes, you can tell me that there was no Lithuania’s by that time, because at that time it was Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. I am history and civic education teacher. If you want to be a good teacher you must feel the passion for what you are doing. I guess it fits for all the jobs around the world. Summer school in Tallinn is one of the best places where you can ignite your passion to burn harder.
Since I was a teenager I always heard jokes about Estonians about how slow they are, never understood that joke, but maybe that joke was made because they settled better than us, Lithuanians, after the collapse of Soviet Union.
This summer school in Tallinn was the second for me in three years and to tell truth I didn’t expect to participate for the second time. But lucky me, they invited me for the second time. And oh boy, I can ensure it was almost perfect, saying like that just because you wouldn’t fall asleep on the laurel.
Why I am so happy? Hope that you are sitting while you are reading it, because it will take some time to explain it properly.
So, like I wrote before I am teacher and I feel big passion for my work, it is so big that I even don’t say that I am going to work, I am saying “I am going to school”, because I like sharing my experience, knowledge and stories with my students. To get knowledge, to get experience in this summer school is very easy and entertaining.
Getting knowledge: we, Lithuanians and Estonians, have very similar history since 1918 till this day, so when you are listening for any kind of lecture about XX century’s Estonia’s history at the same time you are comparing it with Lithuania’s history. What we did the same, what we did different. So I am getting not only wider knowledge about Estonia, but I also get deeper understanding about Soviet Union. Where is passion? I can’t wait when I will be talking with my students about Lithuania in Soviet Union and that I will be able to tell them about Estonia’s case. And then they will be able to compare, and at last they will know more. You can tell me that everything you can find and read in books, and you will be right. But you won’t be able to get that feeling. For example: Patarei prison museum. Prison’s history super similar to my former work place in Kaunas IX fort museum. So what so special? In 1944 from Drancy train station in France moved the train to the East with doomed Jews. Some of them were murdered near Kaunas IX fort, others….. in Patarei. You almost can touch history. You can even smell it.
I am not finished.
You are standing in the Memorial to the Estonia’s Victims of Communism and sharing your family history with mr. Indrek T. What so special about it? My grandfather was exiled to Siberia and when he got back, he met his future wife (my grandmother) who’s brother was in KGB (he finished his service as KGB colonel). Just imagine family’s dinner: KGB colonel and deportee. Surreal? No, just another day in Soviet Union. And mr. Indrek T. responding to my story with super similar story.. and at that moment once again you understand how injured people’s life were, how it affected countries future.
We are standing in wetland/forest. True forest J. I have been in several forest brothers bunkers, but all of them were marked and it was easy to find them. I am sure that in Lithuania we still have some bunkers which are not discovered yet.
So… we are lost, because forest brothers bunker wasn’t marked and… because it is true forest. And I wasn’t disappointed at all. Why? Because it let me to understand for real how hard it was for NKVD to find them.
And Estonians organized smoked sauna J damn, that is so cool, after the half day in the forest you get a chance to relax in smoked sauna, which is in UNESCO world’s heritage list. Searching for bunker and trying smoked sauna in one day, how many chances you have to try all of this if you are from India or Croatia? Not to try smoked sauna – it is a sin.
The end is near…
How cool is that you can meet a guy in Estonia who is from India but lives in Germany? And that is not only one example how different people are in those summer schools.
The end is here…
History about Soviet Union and its crimes are well known for those people who are from former Soviet Block but for the rest of world – no. So this summer school it is a good place to learn about Soviet regime wider and deeper.
P.S. Pubs are great too…
Student Sun Hui from Hong Kong, participant of the 2021 Summer School for secondary school and undergraduate history students
Hello, my name is Sun Hui. I am from Hong Kong, and I am currently living and studying in Germany. I am very happy to have participated in this year’s Summer School，which was organised by the Estonian Institute of Historical Memory. I have gained a lot from this meaningful event.
First of all, we visited many prisons such as “Paterei Prison”, “Pagari Street Cells” etc. In these prisons, we saw that the former Soviet government used various torture methods and committed many crimes, such as the small dark rooms where prisoners were tortured to death. I think there is a tremendous educational value in keeping these prisons. For example, during the visit pf the prisons, we learnt about the crimes against humanity committed by the former Soviet government. It is worth being reminded that we must strive to uphold human rights and that even prisoners have the basic human rights dignity. Therefore, we should say no to torture and acts against humanity.
Secondly, I learnt about the value of peace during the Summer School. On the last day of our trip, I was impressed by “The Great Escape Tour”. On this tour, we visited several beaches where tens of thousands of civilians had to flee to Sweden and Finland due to the invasion of the Nazi Germans and the Soviet Red Army, with countless deaths and injuries and the loss of a large number of population in Estonia. Moreover, “The Memorial for the Victims of Communism” that we visited on the first day, where innocent people were sentenced or even executed by the Soviet government for their ideological struggles and political reasons. This year is just 30 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, I hope that people still remember the brutality of war and the damage caused by ideological struggles and cherish the peace we have now.
Finally, during the Summer Camp, I gained a deeper understanding of Estonia’s unique history. It turns out that Estonia was ravaged by war in the 20th century. First, the Soviet Union annexed Estonia in 1940, and then Nazi Germany occupied her. By the time Germany was defeated, the Soviets had reinvaded Estonia. However, despite the fact that the more substantial powers invaded Estonia, I admire the determination of the Estonians to restore their country. For example, when I watched the Forest Brothers documentary, I was impressed by the way the Estonians resisted the Soviet invasion by using guerrilla warfare tactics despite the intense pressure and aggression from the Soviets. I was moved and impressed by the love of the Estonian people for their country.
My favourite part of the Summer School was the visit to the Estonian National Defence League base. I think it was the first time in my life that I had visited an actual military base, so I was very excited indeed. Of course, war is cruel, and I hope that peace will prevail. However, seeing these ENDL members volunteering to train to defend their country was very impressive.
Finally, I am pleased to have met many students from all over Europe at Summer School, and I am very grateful to the German Embassy for their generous sponsorship. Furthermore, I would like to say “thank you” to Eli, Eliis and Indrek for preparing all of the well-organised events for us. I hope that more students will come to this Summer School in the future, and of course, get to know the beautiful and unique Baltic country – Estonia.