By Buffy Calvert
Enna Jaakson sits cozily at her kitchen table, the old wood stove casting its inimitable warmth. Her daughter Epp, up for a visit, combs Timmy, the stray cat, who has wormed his way into Enna’s household and heart. Maret Kotkas, an Estonian friend, tends a bubbling stockpot of pork to make headcheese. From her window the expanse of lawn stretches toward the meadow edged by sloping woods that line the hills above. Although she longs for the companionship of her husband Adolph who died in 1990, Enna enjoys daily calls from her children and many friends. She is graciousness itself to a stranger at her door.
Sixty-three years before this tranquil scene, in 1944, the last year of World War II, Adolph and Enna Jaakson grabbed their almost two-year-old son Juhan and nine-month daughter Eppie and fled the oncoming Russian army. With a flood of other refugees they climbed the gangplank of a boat in the Estonian port city of Pärnu where Adolph was director of a government research farm. They embarked with the clothes on their backs (minus one of Juhan’s little shoes lost in the rush) and Adolph’s briefcase full of precious documents. After suffering the years of German occupation, they feared falling into the hands of the Communists who in fact were to control Estonia for the next fifty-six years.
The ship was torpedoed and bombed as it maneuvered the dangerous waters of the Baltic Sea toward the north coast of Germany. Little Juhan celebrated his second birthday on a burning ship.
The Jaakson (pronounced Yahkson) family spent the next five years in a Displaced Persons camp, living in one sparsely furnished room of an army barracks, cots on one wall, a stove and table on the other, until Adolph’s generous cousin from Stamford sponsored them and seven other Estonians to come to the States.
One year later, in 1950, they were able to buy the 272-acre farm on the Tremperskill from Bill Lack, a fellow Estonian who was eager to sell, and moved into the five-bedroom white farmhouse, set on a rise above the road. They had thirty cows in the big red barn, a horse and wagon, and lots of courage.
By dint of hard work, helpful children, and good neighbors, they were able to pay off the farm in ten years. The Morse family lived next door. When Adolph asked Weldon if he made liquor from the maple trees he was tapping, he showed him the wonders of syrup production. Juhan and Epp joined Harvey and Linda Dale Morse, just about the same age, on the school bus. The new students learned English rapidly in first grade at ACS. Linda Morse, now Thorington, says her friendship with valiant newcomers to this country like the Jaaksons inspired her to teach English as a second language.
Epp and Juhan graduated a year after the mortgage burning and went off to college: she to SUNY Cortland to major in Physical Education, he to Syracuse University. Epp took a master’s degree in counseling at New York University and has worked as a school counselor in the Chatham-Summit New Jersey suburbs. Juhan received master’s degrees in finance from Wharton School of Business and Georgetown University and works for
the U.S. Treasury Department. Enna’s six grandchildren are scattered from Germany through the United States to Hollywood. “I don’t know why they go so far,” she muses. I suggest they have some of their grandparents’ spirit of adventure.Enna still tends a big vegetable garden, plowed each spring by Harvey Morse and planted by Epp and a friend. Harvey hays the meadows; Enna mounts a ride-on mower to cut her grass. She keeps up her English by reading the Daily Star daily. She has gone back to Estonia twice. On May 3rd she will celebrate her 95th birthday!
Happy Birthday, Enna! We are blessed to have you here in Andes. ~