Feathered folk

by Leelo Tungal

Une Grande Nation (Issue IV/2017)


A swallow. Illustration: ilbusca / Stockphoto.com

Swallows were the birds of my childhood summers. There were nests under the roof of almost every farm house and you could hear their tweeting and chattering early in the morning. Swallows were also the birds that got my husband, the composer Raimo Kangro, into some trouble in 1979. That year he had organised a festival, Estonian Music Days, and commissioned an artist to make a colour poster. The background was blue sky and in the foreground a black and white bird sat on a telephone wire. The bird, with its long tail, reminded one of a crotchet, a note from sheet music.

However the Communist party, which ran Estonia during the Soviet occupation, had the posters pulped. According to party functionaries, the poster was the act of a dissident because blue, black and white were Estonia’s national colours. There was nothing we could do about it: A new poster, minus the black and white swallow and the blue sky, would have to be made. The new version prominently displayed gloomy, lead-grey clouds. That too was symbolic in a certain way. From a distance you could see neither the colours nor the bird. When Estonia achieved independence in 1988, black, white and blue celebrated a revival as the colours of the nation. Even the swallows returned. They were printed on the 500 kroon note, the biggest banknote we had before we had the euro here. 

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