In her 94 years she has seen occupations, wars, tragedy, compassion, and the triumph of humanity over hardship.
Invermere resident, Leida Peepre, grew up among the ancient architecture of coastal Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia. But her carefree childhood and teen years spent playing within the 13th century city were cut short by the dark shadow of imminent occupation.
During the Second World War, the Soviet Union blockaded Tallinn’s port and on June 14th, 1940, aerial bomber patrols began to fill the skies above the city.
The Soviets demanded that Estonia agree to allow them to create military bases in the country and install a pro-Soviet government. Under the threat of invasion, the administration of Jüri Uluots agreed to the Russian terms and resigned the country to Soviet control.
Life under the occupation was tough and dissent with the ruling regime was not tolerated, Leida said. “So many were killed by the Russians at the time or deported,” she said. “Anybody they picked up from the street, including women and children, they sent with no food on train cars to Siberia. They used cattle cars with nothing but a hole at the bottom for a toilet. Men, women, children, teenagers — as many as could fit in these cars they shipped to Siberia to work camps.”