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By Paju Imbi
"When I look at the picture of my mother, I see sadness. The photo was
taken in 1955, about a year after she had been released from Stalin's
forced labor camp."
During the Soviet occupation in the 1940s and 1950s, tens of thousands of Estonians were arrested and deported to Siberia. Among them were Imbi Paju's mother and her twin sister.
For those who grew up in the time of the terror, denial of memories has been the only way to survive. Memories Denied emerged from Imbi Paju's need to understand her mother's experiences. She has interviewed people who lived through the Soviet occupation of Estonia in psychoanalytical and philosophical terms, in which the traumatic experiences suffered by an individual are set against the background of major historical events.
Memories Denied shows us how the tragedy of an individual family repeated over and over gradually becomes a national tragedy, a part of the collective but interrupted European narrative, silenced by the occupations and practical politics. The weakening and destroying of memory, of intimacy, and of family ties was one of the goals of Sovietization.
Memories Denied was originally written in Estonian, but first published in translation in Finnish by Like Publishin
g Ltd. in 2006. Memories Denied was published in Estonian by Estonian Encyclopaedia Publishers and in Swedish by Atlantis in 2007. The Swedish edition, Förträngda minnen, became the best-seller of Gothenburg Book Fair in 2007 and has stimulated a far-reaching discussion in Sweden. A Russian translation will be published in 2009.
With her book and film Imbi Paju has been able to help open a discussion between Eastern and Western Europe as well as in the USA. The discussion continues and has already led to practical results. By a wide majority on April 2, 2009, as part of a Resolution on European conscience and totalitarianism, the European Parliament proposed August 23 as a Europe-wide day of remembrance to help Europe reconcile its totalitarian legacy, both from the Nazis and the Communists. For more and more people it is becoming clear that you can not, should not and must not deny memories any longer.