Audio oral history conducted by Steven Schwinghamer on 12 June 2004 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The interview is not restricted; contact Museum staff for access to the full interview.
Hilja Kuutma: Very crowded, cramped—
Asta Pill [corrected: Piil]: Cold.
HK: I think I was sort of lucky. There were only seven people in our little room and there weren't any bunks. It was just one long sort of—whatever you want to call it—seven of us lying in a row. My mother was seasick most of the time, so she was down there all the time. I remember having to climb up metal stairs, or a ladder—
AP: I remember that the outhouse was at the back of the boat—
HK: Um-hm. Yeah.
AP: —so you sort of had to go in and sit over the waves.
Asta Piil arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard the Walnut in 1948 with her mother. Asta and her mother fled Estonia during the Second World War and went to Sweden. After living in Sweden for a number of years, her mother chose to relocate to Canada for fear of being repatriated back to Estonia, which was under Soviet control following the war. In Canada, Asta and her mother settled in Toronto, Ontario. Asta worked for as a bookkeeper before getting married and having two daughters.
Hilja Kuutma arrived at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia aboard the Walnut in 1948 with her mother and father. Hilja and her parents fled Estonia in 1944 and went to Sweden. After living in Sweden for a number of years, her parents chose to relocate to Canada for fear of being repatriated back to Estonia, which was under Soviet control following the war. In Canada, the family settled in Toronto, Ontario. Hilja went to the University of Toronto and became a pharmacist, working for a time at the Toronto East General Hospital.
Are you a Walnut passenger? A family member? Would you like to share your story? Please contact us, we'd love to add your memories to our collection.