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from the July 2007 issue


On April 27th the Estonian government took down a statue of a Russian soldier in a small park next to the national library in the capital city of Tallinn. Local Russians, nearly a third of the 1.5 million population, had taken to gathering at the monument to hold rallies calling for a return to the good old Soviet days. Since the Soviet Union gave up their occupation of Estonia in 1991, many Russians chose to stay in the newly free country, since it had far more opportunities than their troubled native land. But now they were on the bottom, no longer the top. The situation had gotten tense.

The statue was removed quickly, and rioters took to the streets. Many shop windows in the eight-hundred-year-old Hanseatic city were smashed, including those of the Apollo Bookstore. The shop put up wooden boards immediately, with the word "Avatud," meaning "Open," plastered across the sides of a place that otherwise looked closed.

Several days later a Baltic-wide literary festival was held in Tallinn, and when the participating writers saw the shop, they spontaneously wrote poems upon the walls, in the many languages heard along the Baltic Sea.

The Apollo had no further trouble with rioters, who all seemed to calm down after a few days. Not a single book was taken.

Here are translations of four of the poems.

You say bees die sleeping but they fall to the ground downed by a stroke they're supposed to get honey in their brains and they come back year after year

--Morten Søndergaard translated from the Danish by David Rothenberg and Catherine Barnes


You used to leave A child In every city But I beat you, Leaving A city In every child --Rora [Rolandas Rastauskas] translated from the Lithuanian by Viktorija Jasiunaite

The Story

Every person has his own pain every person uses his pain

to make other people feel pain people don't get other people

because all people have their own pain and everybody feels pain because of their pain

but I painfully want to appreciate You although it's painful that's the story

--Kalju Kruusa translated from the Estonian by Tauno Vahter

the heart has a certificate hold it up to the light you can't read the text only the watermark

--Aare Pilv translated from the Estonian by Tauno Vahter and Jaanika Peerna

Read more from the July 2007 issue
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