Sunday, 5 February 2012

Images to cherish

    A collection of old and gold pictures of  my grandmother -Ira (Irena) and her life in the seaside village of Kasmu in Estonia


 My grandmother, Ira (Irena), in her Estonian traditional dress in the late 1920's

Ira (Irena) and her relative, Lia, in Kasmu, both in Estonian national dress. Lia kept in touch with my grandmother throughout and it is through her that we got a few of these priceless photographs.
In all the photos, Ira was referred to as 'Irena" with an 'a' at the end, a typical Estonian name. However, her passport had the name 'Irene' with an 'e' at the end. 
I grew up hearing her called 'Ira' by one and all, so that is the only name I am sure of. Of course, she was always 'Dida' to her grandchildren!

                                                      Ira as a 16 year old in Kasmu, Estonia

Estonia as it exists today, with its two main islands Hiiumaa and Saaremaa. My grandmother Irena's hometown, Kasmu, is a seaside village town about 40 km eastward of Tallinn along the Baltic sea coastline and holds a famous Maritime museum which used to be a Maritime School headed by Irena's father in the 1920's and '30's. 
SAAREMAA is the name of our Himalayan home in India, in memory of my Grandmother and Estonia.

Estonia in relation to Europe and Russia. 
Estonia along with the other Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania was occupied by German troops from 1941 to 1944 and then by the Soviets until 1991 when Estonia finally got its independence. It has been part of the European Union since 2004.

My grandmother Irena's beautiful home in Kasmu (1932) which is now a Writer's Association and home where writers and authors from all over the world come and stay to write in peace. Once my grandmother married and moved to India, she never could go back to her beloved home. 
With the Russian occupation and almost all of my Grandmothers' relatives having fled Estonia or sent to Siberian concentration camps, my grandmother said she had nothing really to go back to in Estonia except an empty home. My family and I visited it in the summer of 2008  and again in 2011.

Grandmother's house in 2008 when we visited Estonia. In front is the big rock which features in many of her photos. This is the rock she and her brother Juss played on all day in their childhood, year after year. This picture has her great grandson on the much fabled rock!

 Irena (top row, left) performing in a play in her hometown. Being a seaside village, the sea creatures shown are a common aspect of life there!

Irena -20 years old in 1933, just before she met and married my Indian grandfather. They met at a youth hostel in London where Grandfather studied medicine in Bartholomews College and Grandmother was learning English.

Irena's mother and my great grandmother, Nadezda Kaskni Kristenbruhn.  She died at the early age of 48 years after an illness, and was much saddened to know that there were chances of her daughter marrying an Indian and going to live so very far away. It was only after her death did my grandparents get married. 
Nadezda, my great grandmother was born on the Estonian island, Saaremaa and came to K√§smu to teach in the school there. She was the  headmistress while her first husband and Ira's father, Alexander Kaskni  lived and stayed in the Kaskni house called Tulemaa. After Alexander Kaskni died early in life, Ira's mother married Eduard Kristenbrunn and moved to the house which is now the Writers Association.

Ira's stepfather Eduard Kristenbrunn (left)  was a ship captain and headed the five families who owned the shipping association in Estonia. In the short time  between the two world wars when Estonia was independent from both the Germans and Russians, he started with small ships trading salt, then buying and repairing bigger ships and sailing merchandise all over the world. He ran the main Sailing school in Kasmu too, and Ira looked on Kristenbrunn as her father. Sadly, he never recovered to return to his homeland from the concentration camp he was sent to in Siberia.  
My grandfather, Major Gen Amar Nath Roy, as a handsome young student during his medical studies at Bartholomews College, London in the early 1930's

My grandparents' Wedding Day in 1935. They had just returned from a holiday in Estonia where they both got very tanned. In fact, grandfather was sunburnt! My grandmother often spoke about this holiday where grandfather had been introduced to grandmother's parents in Kasmu.

Irena (Ira) and my Grandfather, in India. This photo was taken when I was a child

Next generation mother in the traditional Estonian dress that grandmother carried with her to India in 1936. Once Dida came to India, she never got a chance to go back to the beloved country of her childhood and youth. However, her stories and photos live on and on...... 

'Dida' (Ira Roy) in her home in Dehradun in 1996, soon before she died. Grandfather died much earlier, in 1985.