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BY LAND AND BY SEA by Evald Past; Translated by Hillar Kalmar


by Evald Past; Translated by Hillar Kalmar

230 pages
The memoirs of a Baltic mariner who became a homebuilder.

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Category: Autobiography
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About the Book
After fleeing the invading Soviet Red Army in 1944, Evald Past and his wife and son were among tens of thousands of people that successfully crossed the Baltic Sea to freedom in Sweden. While they were well received there, they became stateless refugees known as DP’s or Displaced Persons. Increasing Soviet threats against Sweden, a neutral country, to return all Baltic refugees to their now communist controlled homelands was cause for concern, particularly after Sweden acted to pacify the Soviets and extradited a few hundred Estonians back home.

Some refugees subsequently considered fleeing war-torn Europe altogether to seek a new life overseas. Those with such plans typically sought immigration visas to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand or other countries. Visas to many countries were difficult to obtain and the waiting periods were long. Some groups of refugees decided to pool funds on a co-operative basis to purchase old vessels they could fix up and sail across the ocean with. They planned to arrive at their chosen destinations as illegal immigrants, taking the risk that after landing they would be allowed to stay.

Evald Past was a Master Mariner interested in moving overseas but not to New Zealand, the only country that had issued immigration visas to his family. He readily found a group of refugees with a ship to command, having Halifax as their destination. The ship, a 62-ton fishing boat named Östervåg, was one of more than 50 small, refugee laden vessels that left Sweden between 1947 and 1951. These ships were dubbed “The Baltic Boats” or “The Little Viking Boats” by the media of the day. Of these ships, 43 are known to have reached their destinations, with the countries they went to and the number of ships that reached there being: United States (17), Canada (11), South Africa (6), Argentina (5), England (3), and Brazil (1). The 11 ships that arrived in Canada brought about 1,100 refugees, comprising Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Poles, Russians, Finns and Danes.

After arriving in Halifax, Östervåg’s 75 passengers were placed in detention and waited for a few months before being granted landed immigrant papers. The new immigrants then began looking for work. Evald Past first worked in a scrap metal yard, which provided the means to eke out a living for his family. He then decided to risk the security of steady but meagre employment to begin building houses. After successfully building and selling several homes near Halifax, Past moved his family to the west coast where the climate was milder. In Victoria, B.C. he continued working as a homebuilder until retirement.

In addition to being a mariner in his homeland, Past was a maritime author and wrote four books about Estonia’s maritime history that were published in Tallinn between 1935 and 1940.



About the Author
Evald Past (1900-1901) was a Master Mariner and maritime author from Estonia. In 1948 he sailed the fishing boat “Östervåg” from Sweden to Halifax with 75 Baltic refugees aboard. After building and selling some homes in Nova Scotia he moved his family to Victoria, B.C. and became a successful homebuilder.



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