|His master’s voice.|
Each morning, my daughter and I pass this statue of August Maramaa and his unnamed dog. My daughter is four years old and very curious and she knows that Maramaa is dead, so she always asks me how he died. Maramaa was mayor of Viljandi in the 1920s and 1930s, and had great plans to turn Viljandi into a summer resort, some of which were realized. But, oh, you know the rest. Do I really have to tell you how he met his end? Fine. Maramaa was arrested by the Soviet authorities in 1941 and deported to Siberia, where he died in a prison camp near Kirov, on the day after Christmas.
How to explain this to a four year old? I told her that he was sent to a prison camp far away, to Siberia (the very word sounds remote and ominous, even to a child’s ears). “But how did he die?” she inquired. The answer to this question, I honestly do not know. Was it disease? Probably. My impression is that the men in the camps were worked to death, that is that they did not receive adequate nourishment for the work they were assigned to do, and thus quickly dropped, like flies, as they say. Maramaa was 60 years old when he died. A man of that age cannot expect to last very long in a Siberian prison camp in winter.
My poor daughter. She doesn’t know who the Soviets were, she knows nothing about class struggle or Nazi racial theories, or Estonia’s first president Konstantin Päts, the “father of the nation,” the attempted 1934 rightwing coup that led to his rule, and the subsequent liquidation of the state in 1940. How am I supposed to explain any of this to her? Fortunately, she only asked one more question.
“How did the dog die?”
“The dog died happy,” I said. “He lived a long, fulfilling life.”
“He?” she raised an eyebrow. “Don’t you mean she?”
“Yes, I meant she.”
“Yeah, I thought it looked more like a girl dog than a boy dog,” she said. “I could just tell.”