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Into God's Hands

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

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

All my possessions
in one small suitcase -
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



The S.S. Walnut

How difficult was it for them to leave everything 
that they had known and held dear?  
They left behind their most precious possession 
-- their homeland --  
having chosen its price, to be that of freedom.


It is hard to believe that it is now 70 years since the S.S. Walnut sailed from Sweden toward Canada 's Halifax harbor with her human cargo to make a bid for freedom in a new land. 

The 700-ton ship was originally built as a Royal Navy minesweeper and had living quarters for a crew of 18.  The Walnut was purchased and co-operatively owned by refugees, mostly of Estonian descent.   Fully aware of the rough winter seas she would face in her journey, the little Walnut left Gothenburg (Göteborg), Sweden on the 13th of November, 1948. 

That the Walnut was even able to begin her journey was questionable.  Could the 347 individuals wanting to reach Canada even fit on such a small ship?  Would they reach their destination safely?  Why did they risk their lives for freedom?

This is the story of the rusty, little mine sweeper -- the Walnut -- a ship filled with anxious and hopeful hearts -- all looking for a new life.  

From aboard the Walnut on a calm sea day - 1948.

"They are standing everywhere at the railings without moving, pale and looking towards the land, in order to find faces to whom to say farewell, for whom to smile.  The older ones lifted the children to the edges of the railings, sitting themselves on the life rafts and bags of potatoes which had been piled on the deck...  Others looked nervously to those who were taking pictures of them from the pier.  Someone onboard said they did not know which route they were taking or when or where they would arrive, afraid that they would be followed and the boat seized.... 

The ropes were released and the difficult journey towards an unknown future began.  The passengers sang "Du gamla du fria" and "Mu isamaa mu õnn ja rõõm".   Many cried openly, the faces of others betrayed their fear and distress....  As the Walnut sailed out into the fog, all those onboard began to sing -- their voices could be heard over the quickly expanding distance."

Author and source unknown 
- Newspaper clipping dated approx. Nov. or Dec. of 1948.  


Watch a video about the voyage here.

Read about the voyage here.


Hello and Welcome,

This website is the result of a 60th reunion held by the passengers of the S.S. Walnut in December of 2008 at which  the passengers and their families expressed a desire to create a central location where memories of their journey could be stored online for future generations.  Since Pier 21 Museum in Halifax prominently  features the Walnut in their exhibits and uses it for school projects, this website has come also to be a resource for students.  A wonderful additional consequence of the website has been the reuniting of many Walnut passengers and their family members.

Although I was born in Canada, both my parents were passengers aboard the ship.  Their memories of the journey are very dear to me.

     God bless,  Tiiu Roiser


Announcements - What's New ?


November 24, 2018 - The passengers, family members and friends of the Walnut celebrate the 70th anniversary of the crossing.  Read about the reunion here.


November 2018 - Passenger Guri Raag has passed away.  Our condolences to his widow and fellow passenger Marcella.

Fall 2016 - Preserving Precious Memories for Others - New article in Eesti Elu.

December 2015 - Sadly we announce the passing of the ship's First Mate Friedrich Heinsar.

November 2015 - All good things come to an end - we have unfortunately lost our free server space.  Tiiu Roiser has taken on the cost of keeping up this website.  With these changes, the site's name has also changed.  We have now registered a new domain name and will henceforth be located at www.walnutship1948.ca  

January 2015 - We have lost another Walnut passenger.  With deep sadness we announce the passing of Koidula Roiser.

January 2014 - We bid a sad farewell to another passenger, Endel Toop.

December 2013 - Sadly, shortly after attending the 65th reunion, Nelly Lind passed away.  Condolences to the Lind family.

November 2013 - The 65th passenger reunion was held with 96 guests in attendance. Some older passengers unable to attend the event had their own gathering on November 15th at Ehatare retirement home.  See images of the events here.  Read Guri Raag's newly added recollections in Estonian or see the translation in English.


Walnut passengers & family members - November 2013


August 2012 - The Website gets an overhaul.  

November 2011 - Ms. Heather Browne contacts The Sligo Champion newspaper looking for more information about the Walnut.  The newspaper subsequently runs a feature story in October about the Walnut's arrival in 1948.  Ms. Browne receives an email from a reader with recollections about the sale of the lifeboats.  Read more on the Sligo-Ireland page.

November 2011 - Mr. Matt Idnurm shares his mother's recollections of her homeland through photographs of her paintings.  A new page is added to the website:  Melanie Idnurm   

November 2011 - Mr. Noel Guinane shares his memories of the Walnut visit to Sligo.  He was five years old when a knock on his door brought in three or four men with wet clothes speaking a strange language.  Read more on the Sligo-Ireland page.

October 2011 - New pictures donated by Ms. Heather Browne are added to the Sligo-Ireland page.  See where the Walnut first arrived in Ireland and meet Pastor Browne.

August 2011 - New contacts were made with two Walnut passenger families and names were added to the passenger list:  Harry Alle and Anna, Ene, George and Toivo Maaniit.
July 2011 - I was delighted to be contacted by a Ms. Heather Browne from Ireland.  Her father was one of the priests that blessed the Walnut while she was docked at Sligo.  The Browne family has generously shared with us a newspaper clipping, an accounting of the event written by Pastor Browne and several thank you letters from the passengers.  The new material has been posted here: 
   Memories from Sligo-Ireland

Family Ristmägi were added to the passenger listing. 

April 2011 - A new documentary-type 30-min. video of the Walnut journey is presented at the Estonian Ethnographic Society year-end meeting at the Toronto Estonian House.  The video may be viewed at:   "Destiny of a Tiny Ship"

March 2011 - New material!  Mati Idnurm was six years old during the Walnut voyage.  He shares with us his recollections as well as some new photographs:  Memories from Mati Idnurm









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For information please email the website's administrator and creator  tiiu-roiser@rogers.com  
All images and text on this page are used with permission and are copyrighted  by the image providers.   
I thank all the individuals who have graciously allowed us to post their images and stories on this website.  A list of contributors appears on the links page.
Background pattern courtesy of Subtlepatterns.com

This page was last updated 27/12/2018 08:05 PM