Monday, March 12, 2012

Interview with Salme (99 years old) on 21-st of February 2012
(A rough translation)

Contemporary childhoods seem to be different from what they used to be during your youth?!

Much different. My grand-daughter`s son is five years old and he has quite a wide life experience. When i was a child, we hardly had any toys in our cottage. When father was working with timber, i was there, playing with shavings. I cut strips of wood, split them and made crosses. Though, i had a doll aswell, it`s head was made of cloth, where eyes and mouth were painted, and with that doll i used to play. When i got older and had to look after herd, i made dolls out of alder tree and somehow also tried to make them faces. As well and as bad as they came out…

What happened with your dolls?

What happened to them? Oh, the war drove over of them all. When war ended, all w ehad, was a shaken up hen and a cat, that was all we had in our cottage. But what i miss the most is the zither that i got as a present. It was a bit smoked and it had been used by several generations, it had carvings on it`s neck, where the strings were fixed. That i miss the most. Everything was gone, my mother`s cloth coffin was also broken, nothing good was left.

Had any of children from your village nobler toys aswell? Had anyone proper dolls and things like that or did you yourself dream of one?

No, nobody bought any dolls, those were self made, out of clothes, and that was it. The farm needed agricultural tools and other inventory.

But probably you used to play some kind of games there?

Yes, by the cattle, we used to play „Trip to Riga“. It was like that: one meter of an alder tree was peeled, then a wooden stick was split apart and it was somehow thrown. When the split sides fell down the same way, then the „horse“ could go further. The „horse“ was some kind of hooks, made of alder tree, that we used to play with. There was also a stone-game, with five stones. At first you throw a stone up to the air, in the same time you grab another stone from ground, and later, when you get quicker, you can grab already four stones, when first one is still in the air. Those were the games to play when looking after herd.

But at home?

We usually didn`t play at home. There children used to help parents working in garden or do something else useful. Maybe in some richer family the life was easier, but in our case w ehad expanded our farm and developed the inherited perishes. I remember how the barn was built, when the herd got bigger.

But how could you then play with these self made dolls?

The dolls, made of clothes, as they were… yes, we played with them in the evenings and on Sundays that were celebrated. And by the herd and…

What did you, children, dream of during these times? Did you have any dreams?

Well, sure i had. I wanted to see the city and …i used to stand on a hill and look towards the city. From there i could see the road to the city and church towers. I thought if i could go there and look around, see bigger buildings. The state mansion was near, there was breed cattle. And also an event was nearby – russians were buying the cattle, there were veterinarians running around in white smocks or zootechnicians or who else they were. Animals were measured and bought, some were not. That was quite a spectacle.

Did children dream of sweets or city toys?

About the city toys.. I had an uncle, my faher`s brother, who worked in Russia, near Schlüsselburg, as forester. He brought some toys, those were made in the factory. Those i used to handle with care. Those had different roles.. a housewife or…  Well, our life experience was quite narrow, we couldn`t look around that much. Those toys were also a bit rural.

Were the city toys better than rural ones?

They were prettier. Those were dolls in different roles – there were warriors, women, wearing national costumes of Russia. Those were not brought outside. When being by the cattle, some things were done as i told you before about the „trip to Riga“, when an alder stem was stuck into earth and then gone to Riga by wooden sticks.

But why Riga?

I don`t know why, maybe because of some stories told by my father. H ehad a lot of Polish literature, but everything went missing.

Did children have any rocking horses?


You didn`t know how to desire it or you just didn`t have desire for it?

Well, the life experience was narrow. Didn`t want things unknown.

But you still used to swing?

In the time of Easter Sunday… there was a birch tree and a swing. Grown-ups were swinging, children were looking and sometimes we could do it aswell.

Did you have horses in your farm?

Yes, there was a horse.

What kind of animals children used to like? Horses?

Lambs maybe. There was a lot of sheep as there was self-supporting. Bedclothes and underwear were made of linen, outerwear was made of wool.

Did you have any indoor pets, cats or dogs?

Yes, dog was an important friend i used to play with. He was very talented to follow me.

Did the dog live indoors or outdoors?

He was more outside, but during dinner he came inside and stayed under table. He was given some bits by children, though my mother didn´t support this idea, but still children always gave him something.

What kind of Christmas gifts you used to have?

Gifts.. i don`t remember much. But my father sometimes brought a book from Võru, Palju Bookstore. I started to read very early. Also looked the pictures and study the words.

So children used to have more such gifts as books, and less sweets and toys?

We didn`t have much wealth as war devastated us and the farm was expanded, so some things were considered more important than the world of children. Maybe it was better in wealthier families.

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