S.S. Walnut

A voyage to Freedom - 1948

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Into God's Hands

 A stormy sea -
the water 
looms endless -
cold and frigid;

We leave behind 
forever
those we have loved
things we have known;

All my possessions
in one small suitcase -
 memories 
are easy to pack;

What fate awaits us?

Together we came
with dread -
yet filled  with hope;

Into God's hands -
we placed our dreams
and our lives;

Deliver us all
from evil
Your kingdom come;

We thank You -
for this second chance
our lives anew.

Tiiu Roiser 
Dec. 2008

 

 

 

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The York University PhD Thesis About the Voyage of the Walnut is now complete! 
(April 2011)

On 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).

Lynda 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. 

The first set of interviews focused on:  

  • impressions of Canada prior to leaving Sweden; 

  • experiences on the voyage;

  • time spent in Halifax; and 

  • current 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.

One 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.

 

 

NEW FROM UBC PRESS

Photography, Memory & Refugee Identity

THE VOYAGE OF THE SS WALNUT, 1948

______________________

 

LYNDA MANNIK

 

 

On 13 December 1948, a ship carrying 347 Estonian refugees

 fleeing Soviet rule arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  

The photographic records of this harrowing experience 

bear witness to the refugee experience.

 

www.washington.edu/uwpress         www.ubcpress.ca

 

 

 


 

This website has been created and is maintained by Tiiu Roiser Chorowiec.   
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This page was last updated 31/12/2015 01:16 AM

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