Tõnis Lind (Jr.) was just five years old when he found himself aboard the Walnut with his younger brother Tiit Erik, and parents Nelly and Tõnis. He does not remember much, but does recall his father’s sound advice to him while on board: “Where ever you go, make sure you look up and look down. Look up to make sure no-one is vomiting on you, and make sure to look down so that you don’t step into it.”
Originally from Taebla vald, Nelly and husband Tõnis (from Parnu) were living their married lives in Haapsalu. It was not an easy decision for them to escape from their homeland of Estonia at the time of the Russian invasion in 1944. Tõnis’ parents had already passed away – he left behind his four siblings. Nelly’s parents, however, were still alive – she was from a family of 11. Heavily pregnant with her second son, Nelly made the difficult decision to leave everyone and everything behind and escape to Sweden . Like others, the only method by which to leave was on a small fishing boat. Nelly explains that the only reason they were allowed on board the 18-foot boat was because her husband had fuel.
Right: Tõnis Lind (Jr.) - March 2009
Bottom left: Nelly Lind - March 2009
Tõnis describes their journeys from Estonia and Sweden both as miracles – in fact, there were many miracles along the way. Escaping from Estonia , it was a miracle that their father had fuel – the only reason they were allowed on the fishing boat. Half way across the Baltic sea, the boat stopped and they had to return to fix the fuel pump. When they left a second time, the Russians had arrived in their area and shots were being fired. Tõnis cannot say for sure if the gunfire was directed specifically at them, but they fled in the dark of night through a bed of reeds – that they hadn’t been shot and had gotten away again – was a miracle.
It took two days to cross the sea. The waves were very rough and the group found themselves bailing water just to stay afloat, the rim of the boat was only four inches from the waterline. Everything was thrown overboard - that they had been able to keep the boat from sinking – was another miracle.
The coastline of Sweden can be extremely rocky and it was pitch black when they arrived. Someone shouted, “Check the depth” and the group found themselves teetering on a rock in a v-shape gulley of water. The group was saved from their precarious situation by the Swedish coast guard. A little more to the right and they would have been again on the open sea and taken on too much water and sunk, a little more to the left, and they would have been smashed to pieces on the rocks.
That Tõnis, only a year and a half old, sitting in the lap of his pregnant mother for two days, survived with the others – a miracle. Little brother Tiit Erik was born ten days after their escape. They landed at Talaröö, moving over time from there to Stockholm, Trelleborg, Helsingborg, and finally to Göteborg to board the Walnut in 1948.
What became of Nelly’s family in Estonia? Shortly after her departure, Nelly’s whole family, except for one sister, was sent to Siberia where they lived for the next 16 years.
Right: Nelly Lind with son Tõnis, granddaughter and great grandson. March 1st, 2009 Celebrating Nelly's 90th birthday.
Despite losing her younger son Tiit Erik in a tragic airplane accident in 1977, family Lind here in Canada, has done very well. "Canada has been good to us,” says Nelly. Recently celebrating her 90th birthday, she is surrounded by her family which has now grown to include five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
The following are the recollections of mother and son:
"Family Lind's Flight to Freedom Aboard the Walnut Ship 1948"
If browser doesn't automatically download, watch video on YouTube.
The music used in the Family Lind video is © by Jimmy Gelhaar:
"I Really Prayed" and "Tears of the Forest". All music made available through the JimmyG.us website at: http://www.jimmyg.us
Licensed under Creative Commons "Attribution 3.0"
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.