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University PhD Thesis About the Voyage of the Walnut is now complete!
the 18th of November 1948, 347 people undertook a dangerous journey from Sweden
to Canada in a British minesweeper, the SS Walnut, which was originally designed
to sleep 18 men. They survived several winter storms and seasickness
during this 3-week passage, which finally brought them to Pier 21, in Halifax,
on December 13th. This voyage is part of a much larger movement, referred
to by Estonian historians as “the little Viking boats”. In all, 46
vessels left Sweden with thousands of Estonians aboard (Aun 1985).
Männik, a former student with the Social Anthropology Department at York University,
has now completed her Ph.D. Thesis. She has completed
interviewing surviving passengers of the SS Walnut living in and near Toronto.
Her study was aimed at examining connections between photography, memory and
archived sources. Information from Sweden, Germany, Estonia and Canada,
including media reports and government documents, provided contextual
insights. Added to that are the results of oral interviews with those
who undertook this voyage. Photographs taken primarily by Joann Saarniit,
Max Kalm and Manivald Sein played a central role in her analysis.
first set of interviews focused on:
of Canada prior to leaving Sweden;
on the voyage;
spent in Halifax; and
reflections on experiences after leaving Halifax.
Männik also completed
a second set of interviews, where participants were shown two short videos, both
produced by the Pier
21 Museum about the Walnut. A list
of questions focused on past visits to the Pier 21 Museum, reflections on
the video and general perspectives of the Pier 21 displays concerning migration
to Canada during this period.
of the primary reasons Männik undertook this project is that following
WWII, over 50,000 Estonian refugees migrated to North America. However,
their histories have received little attention in the mainstream, Canadian
academic community. Since the early 1990's, life story research has become
very popular in Estonia and a concerted effort has been made towards filling in
historical gaps left by years of Soviet occupation. She has been following
the literature on this trend, which also calls for more research concerning
migrations that took place after 1944 and feels that this project will add
substantially to recognizing the determination and concerted agency of many
Estonians at this time. Männik is also interested in the links between
lived experience and the official representations of these experiences that take
place in museums, the media and government records.
FROM UBC PRESS
Memory & Refugee Identity
VOYAGE OF THE SS WALNUT, 1948
13 December 1948, a ship carrying 347 Estonian refugees
Soviet rule arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova
photographic records of this harrowing experience
witness to the refugee experience.
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