The Legacy of Great Men

Tina Tamman (Independent Researcher)

The Orthodox Archbishop Nikolai Päts died of natural causes in 1940 and has been practically forgotten in his native Estonia. Although he was a prolific author, library director and military organiser during the War of Independence, he died before being repressed by the Soviet authorities and altogether belonged to what Estonians see as the Russian church—some of the reasons why he has been overshadowed by his younger brother Konstantin Päts who rose to presidency of the country. There is no name on Nikolai’s grave in central Tallinn.

Nikolai Päts had seven children. It would be interesting to research all of them but my focus has been on Ludmilla who fled Estonia in 1944. She was 29 at the time, had been employed as a nurse at Tallinn Central Hospital, and now suddenly found herself as a refugee in northern Germany. She stayed in Germany for four years before being allowed to go to Britain. In time she married but the marriage was childless. She died at the age of 84 in 1999, was cremated, so there is no grave.

She left no official will but a kind of self-appointed executor told me that the couple had very few possessions (the husband, Adolf Hanssoo, had predeceased her). When I asked the “executor” what she had done with the few possessions, she told me that the tangible objects she had sent to Estonia. “There were quite a lot of personal letters,” she added, “but those I burnt. They were personal.” This left me speechless.

There is hardly anything remaining of Lucy-Ludmilla Hanssoo or of her father, or of his family. I woke up to research too late. I could have taken an interest in Lucy and maybe preserved those personal letters for posterity. But I did not. And now it is too late. Thus, I appeal to you to record the life story of your elderly compatriot—at least one whom you find interesting.