Aino Lepik von Wirén
It seems that for the first generation of Estonians in exile, i.e. those born before the Second World War, their Estonian identity is inseparable from their personality ([I am Estonian as I was born in Estonia]). For people of your generation, did the feeling of being Estonian form during your childhood or did you become aware of it only later?
Has your interest in law and legal matters been influenced at all by the injustices to which Estonia has been subjected?
For the first generation of Estonians in exile, the feeling of identity and the matter of being Estonian were certainly not of primary importance. By thinking about my parents, I can imagine that the issues which counted the most for them were losing their fatherland, adapting to life abroad, and being separated from their relatives and friends. This applies particularly to those who were already adults by the time they went into exile and who had obtained their education in the Republic of Estonia.
I dare say that those Estonians who had not completed their education in Estonian before going into exile, and who soon had to continue their studies in a foreign language, were the ones for whom the question of being Estonian or not was the most painful. Many of them did everything they could to assimilate rapidly into the population of their new country of residence and promptly forgot about their Estonian identity.
It was somewhat easier for people of my age who were born during the fifties and early sixties. Our parents had a firm Estonian identity which they did not doubt, while we were as proficient in the language of our country of residence and able to relate to the circumstances there just as well as the local young people. The recognition of this gave us the courage to be Estonian as well.
The Estonian identity of the people of my generation comes essentially from the home, from Stockholm, where I grew up, and to a certain extent also from six years of Estonian primary school. Naturally, the preservation of the Estonian identity abroad depended on the opportunities that existed to meet other Estonians and the desire to find opportunities to speak and read Estonian and just to learn about our country of origin in general.