Priimetsa Cemetery

This cemetery is tucked away in a residential area of Valga, the far end overlooking the lake. It's not marked on Google maps other than as a green area; I only found the name by sporting a small sign a few blocks away.

I am here now, crunching through the autumn leaves to read the names and dates on the tombstones. It's clearly a modern cemetary, with stones from the 1940s to 2016. 

I have always walked through cemeteries old and new, but there's a specific poignancy to Estonian graves. It's impossible not to think about the struggles that each person saw during their lives, country wresting control of its borders in 1918, the culmination of the national awakening, just to be re occupied during World War Two: the Soviets and the Germans and then the Soviets again.

Two women move through the cemetary around me, dragging wheelbarrows and rakes to clear the paths. It will take all day, maybe all week, and there is no-one here to thank them. 

 I find myself searching for a life that saw all these changes and survived to the 1990s to see their country free again. Instead I find too many baby boys born on 1918, a celebration of independence, who died in 1944. 

An Estonian friend messages me to find out where I am and I ask her what Priimetsa means. It means something like free forest, she tells me, but older and more poetic.

It's perfect, I tell her.  Exactly the name I would have chosen for this place.  I wave to the two women. They glare back at me suspiciously and go back to raking. 

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