Other than being mighty pissed off in a petit bourgeois way that my Tallinn neighbourhood was going to the dogs last April, what I remember is a trip I took to Keila the week before the riots.
A crew from Swedish TV4 had contacted some friends of mine about making a short segment on the Bronze Man. I questioned the Swedes' motives -- I thought they might take a sensationalist approach. Signing aboard as their guide and translator, I felt some responsibility for steering them in the right direction. What if, I said, I could line up an interview with the girls, now active women in their 70s, who blew up the original wooden monument in 1946? The Swedes seemed excited, as if already structuring a piece in their minds -- maybe Estonians had a long tradition of removing monuments?
Not quite, of course. Regarding what the girls did, I think recently some news organizations, and even the Wikipedia entry, have missed an important detail. It wasn't just that the girls were "angry" that Estonian monuments were being razed by the Soviets at that time. I think it's an important distinction. It wasn't a tit-for-tat vengeance deal. From the girls' perspective, it was even more simple and direct -- they had been eyewitnesses to the fact that some squatters in a nearby building that was to be requisitioned had been summarily executed by the Soviets and buried hastily under the monument -- not military, as claimed by the Soviets. So much, in other words, for "unknown soldiers" -- unknown yes, but soldiers no. To say nothing about heroic liberators.
Ageeda Paavel was not available on the day the Swedes were to arrive so she referred me to her friend, Aili Jõgi (nee Jurgenson), who like her was tried as an adult and sentenced to long terms in Siberia.
Things fell together perfectly. We rode a taxi cab out to Keila. The Swedes had wanted to speak to local Russian-speaking people, too, and the driver was Russian and they chatted and I translated what little I could.
I felt a little embarrassed when we got to Mrs. Jõgi's place. I realized only when we got there how seriously ill her husband of many decades, Ülo Jõgi (then the last surviving member of the ERNA recce group), was. She had just been to the hospital that morning where he had had a tranfusion for leukemia -- and then come back home to talk to foreign camera crew about her country!
I had to translate the cameraman's endless instructions on where to stand -- I didn't know so much scripting and blocking went into a 5-minute TV news segment.
She was so full of life and so optimistic. She referred to it as her Hollywood star turn and complied.
She produced nothing but perfect sound bites, I thought, explaining it perfectly from her POV -- her outrage at what was going on in Estonia after the WWII was officially over. I didn't see the finished segment but spent the afternoon helping the Swedes edit it. The cameraman in particular seemed leftist as hell, but they were journalistically conscientious.
I had the feeling, and I don't think it's a conceit on my part, that they expected a doddering pensioner whose story they would have to salt liberally with moral relativism, but what they got was compelling, lucid and heartfelt TV.