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.
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 time 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 the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 in Halifax prominently features the Walnut in their exhibits and uses it for school projects, this website has also come to be a resource for research. A wonderful additional consequence of the website has been the reuniting of many Walnut passengers, their family members, and individuals associated with the journey and the ship.
It is hard to believe that it is now more than 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 remarkable. 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 filled with anxious and hopeful hearts -- all looking for a new life.
"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.
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