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Vova Kojalo, Worcester Massachusetts

 

There were a couple of articles published in your paper describing the armored trains in Estonia and that stirred up many memories.


My father served in the armored train regiment from the time it was formed until they were dismantled by the Soviet occupation in 1940. l was born in February 1924 and my memories go back to the late 1920's.


The center of the regiment was the Estate of Tapa, adjacent to the town of Tapa. lt consisted of three trains: train #1,” Captain Anton Irv", train #2 and train #3. Train #1 and train #3 were in Tapa. Train #2 was in Valga until it was transferred to Tapa in the middle of the 1930's.

 

The trains were usually made up of a couple of open armored cars that carried weapons and ammunition mounted on the open area, administration and living quarters for the crew, an electric power source, personal hygiene equipment, personnel supplies and of course, the engine.

 

The train was usually activated in Paldiski sometime in the summer.


The base had two sizeable buildings for personnel and a good size building for the kitchen and dining room and a hall for entertainment from stage performances, shows, moves, etc.

 

There was also a building for horse stables. The regiment had about a dozen horses which we would walk under for fun.

 

There was also a building for laundry and a sauna and a building for the regiment’ s power supply: electricity and water.

 

My father oversaw the power supply. The Commander lived in a house in the garden.

 

The original old main building was the estate headquarters of the regiment.

 

Other buildings were renovated and used as living quarters for the officers and their families.

 

My family had a two-room apartment in the middle of the base. Old buildings were also converted to different shops: carpentry, shoemakers, tailors, etc.

 

Behind our apartment was a dog yard where dogs were trained for different tasks, mostly communication.

 

Next to the dog park was a huge wood yard that supplied wood for stoves and for the engine. Not far from the wood yard were more apartments for personnel.

 

Across from our apartment was a garden of fruits and vegetables. The garden was cared for by a neighborhood farmer and was surrounded by a wall six feet high and two feet thick.

 

The regiment had a truck and a sedan used to transport the Commander.


My father was the head of the power supply, the electricity and running water for the base.

 

He was popular with the regiment and his office was always full of friends who sought his advice. He was well known to the farmers surrounding the base who were looking for favorable spots in the regiment when their sons were drafted.

 

The base was large and as children we spent many hours roaming and exploring. The soldiers were very kind to us. There was a beautiful park where we often played war and looked out for our enemy, the Reds.

 

We also spent a lot of time in the horse stables or the wood yard also playing war and looking for the Reds.

 

But our favorite place to gather was around the field where the soldiers trained. We looked for used bullets without powder. They could not ignite, but we would put them on a rock and smash them with another rock. It made a great noise!


We played barefooted and shirtless. There was always construction going on around the buildings and our feet were often punctured and bleeding, but we rarely bandaged our wounds. l also remember no infected cuts.


Once we saw an earth moving machine on a narrow rail. After the workers went home, we, of course, inspected the cart.

 

I was moving the cart up and down and got my finger caught between the shaft and the roller.

 

When the doctor saw my smashed finger, he wanted to cut it off, but l said no and eventually a new part grew over the smashed part and now, it is barely visible.


When l turned eight, I had to go to school. Our school was in rural Tapa. My mother and l went to register, but it was a one room school and we did not like it.

 

Instead, we visited the school in the town of Tapa, talked to the principal and l was accepted.

 

On the first day of school, we arrived by horse and carriage because one of our schoolmates was the daughter of a high-ranking officer.

 

She and l were the same class at school. We enjoyed being brought to school in a horse and carriage. We felt very special.


l was ten when my father had a house built in the town of Tapa. Moving meant new territory to explore, new friends to hang out with and new adventures to pursue.

 

But it was also the end of my time at the base except for sauna on Saturday. l did have a chance to clean the Home Guard's howitzer for two summers.

 

l also worked for a painter and had a chance to paint part of the personnel barracks.


In 1940, when Soviet Russia captured the country and dismantled the Estonian Army, my father was transferred to Võru.

 

He stayed there a short time and had a chance to leave the army and return to his favorite place, the power station.

 

The town of Tapa secured ownership of the base and my father worked in the power station until he retired. He continued to work on the electric power lines that suppled electricity to the neighborhood farmers until he died in 1974.

 

l am sure the buildings and land are now used by the new Estonian Army.


l still do not know what happened to the trains when the Soviets dismantled the Estonian Army and left the country in bondage for fifty years.

 

April 10, 2020

 

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