Children and War. 1941–1944

The joint exhibition by the Estonian History Museum and Tartu Toy Museum Children and War: 1941–1944 was open at attic of the University of Tartu Museum.

It has been more than 70 years since the end of the Second World War. For Estonia this war meant experiencing battles and also being occupied by Germany and the Soviet Union. War did not only affect those who fought at the Front but caused disruption to the lives of everyone living here. Children also saw and experienced the war – they lost loved ones, were made homeless, and suffered from hunger and other privations. Their lives were unsettled, but despite this there were games that still needed to be played – children had their own activities, cares and joys. What did the Second World War look like through the eyes of children?

Through childhood memories, the exhibition opened the door to the lives of five children. We heard Menda’s story of how her home was destroyed in the bombing of Tallinn on 9 March and how little Aavi’s family escaped to Russia, because it was well known that a German occupation would have shown Jews no mercy. We cast a look at the life of Aimi, a girl living in Tartu, whose family escaped to Germany. We sympathised with Tiit, a country boy from Võsu, who after being deported to Siberia ended up in a Russian orphanage and Kalju, a boy from Tallinn, who became the head of his family after they fled to the country to escape the war, and who had to manage all the farm work and make sure his family had food on the table.

At the exhibition visitors were able to literally step into the shoes of war-time children and try their hand at war-time games. The exhibition spoke about the effect of war on the lives and futures of young people, and it also highlighted family values.

Visitors were able to take a look at the childhoods of our parents, grandparents or even great grandparents and think about those today who are living through war.

The Estonian History Museum and Tartu Toy Museum would like to thank all the people who had preserved children’s things from the years of the Second World War, donated them to museums or loaned them for this exhibition. Many items collected during the course of various collecting campaigns were on display at the exhibition.

The items and photographs on show were from the collections of the Estonian History Museum, the Estonian National Museum, the Estonian Agricultural Museum, Põlva Peasant Museum, Tartu Toy Museum and private collections.

Curators: Karin Konksi, Helena Grauberg
Project manager: Ehti Järv
Exhibition design: Mari Hunt, Kadri Klementi (b210)
Graphic design: Marja Liisa Plats, Epp Õlekõrs
Language editor: Hille Saluäär
Translation: Refiner Translations OÜ