I sent the below email to Australia’s Estonian and Russian embassies in March 2019 but nobody has responded. I guess my request to access dad’s KGB files and a video that was taken of me when I visited my father’s farm in Estonia in the early 90s, is a bit of a hot potato.
So I have decided to throw it out to cyberspace and see if anyone can help me. Instead of a book, I have decided to create a video blog about my dear dad’s controversial escape from Estonia in the 1940s. (This is a pic of my dad Karl Summer in 1946. He was 20. Handsome, huh.)
Anyway, here’s what I wrote:
To Whom It May Concern
I have resumed research for a book about my father’s life and controversial escape from Estonia in the 1940s. The International Tracing Service (ITS) has provided me with copies of his displaced person and emigration documents. However, the ITS primarily focuses on the fates of victims of Nazi persecution and does not have access to documentation pertaining to victims of Soviet persecution.
I have therefore decided to contact both the Estonian and Russian Embassies in Canberra, in the hope that guidance may be provided about how to obtain and/or view sensitive historical documents related to my father as outlined below. I am well aware of the possibility that the documents I seek have either been destroyed or are still classified, but if I don’t ask, I will never know. My book will be written regardless.
My father’s name is Karl Summer, born 24 January 1926, Tartu, Estonia. The ITS documentation states that on 10 May 1946, he registered in DP Camp Altenstadt (district Schongau) and emigrated to Australia on 24 January 1949 via Naples, Italy, on the Hellas Nea. My father died when I was 17 and never had the opportunity to finish telling me stories about his life and how he came to be blacklisted by the Soviet Government.
The information I seek is as follows:
1. My father’s rejected Politburo applications in the 1960s and 1970s requesting permission for his mother Linda Summer to travel to Adelaide South Australia to spend time with us. Sadly, my grandmother died in 1977 but surprisingly, my father’s sister Helvi Oissar was granted permission to visit us in 1978 or 1979.
2. My father’s KGB files pertaining to his alleged crime in Estonia. About a year before my father suddenly died in 1980, he told me he was involved in a forest ‘incident’ involving two older Estonian soldiers and a Russian soldier that left him traumatised. He was consequently called up to the firing line at the KGB Tartu Headquarters but was singled out by a concerned Russian officer who asked him what he was doing there. The officer told my father to ‘get on his bike and get out of Estonia as soon as possible.’ I asked my father why his life was spared and he didn’t have an answer other than it being a ‘miracle.’ (This is a unique light in my father’s story and central to my intentions for writing about it.)
My father was consequently blacklisted by the Russian Government which is probably why the Politburo never allowed his mother to visit Australia. Further research has uncovered extensive KGB activity in Australia from the 60’s to 90’s. (According to newspaper reports, Australian politicians are allegedly too ‘traumatised’ to speak about it. I believe it’s time for them to speak about it. And call a truce, perhaps. But that’s another story.)
3. In 1992 I travelled to Estonia to visit relatives and my father’s childhood farm and lake he often spoke about. He told me he could never return to his homeland because he would have been shot. Sadly, his dearest wish was to return to his farm and ‘dip his toes’ into the lake he loved so much as a child. Thankfully, I was able to do this for him.
However, my sister visited our father’s farm in 2018 for the first time and met the owner. He said he remembered my visit to the farm because the KGB was inside the house filming me. It was brave of the owner to reveal this information, although my blood ran cold when I heard the news.
Spending time at my father’s farm was a sacred, healing moment for me because I struggled to come to terms with his death for many years. To be honest, I did wonder whether I was being ‘watched’ but chose to let go of that thought and not let is spoil my special day.
The fact that my privacy was violated by the KGB is a serious issue. I consider this to be an illegal action due to the fact that Estonia was an independent state when I visited. However, since learning that unnamed Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian political figures collaborated with the KGB until the early 90s, for all I know, the KGB may have been given permission.
That said, I have a basic understanding of KGB training rituals and how spies the world over are under oath to obey the government directives. So I would naturally be interested in viewing the film footage – if it still exists – and find out why the decision was made to spy on me in Estonia. (The KGB could have just asked me questions in person and I would have happily answered them.)
In closing, I am approaching this writing project in a peaceful, apolitical manner. I also resonate with both Estonian and Russian people and don’t wish to cause any trouble or upset to political figures on either side of the border. If anything, I would like to revisit Estonia and Russia again one day and enjoy a ‘spy-free’ holiday.
My father was a wonderful, loving man who was sadly caught in the crossfire of a dark historical era. He was a mere teenager who felt called to defend his homeland. In some circles, it is alleged that the Russian Government is of the view that the Baltic States agreed to the terms of the 1939 Molotov/Ribbentrop Pact. My research has revealed a counter view but I am interested in learning both sides of the story to ensure I capture an accurate account of events.
I look forward to your response. If you are unable to provide any assistance, I will understand and continue my search for the truth via alternative channels.
May peace between the Baltic States and Russia prevail, and diplomatic relations be cultivated.
Thank you for your time.
Central Coast, NSW, Australia