January 4, 2018

Falling & Laughing: A Story Behind a Photo of '1930s Teenage Delinquents'

It is a rather bizarre feeling to stumble upon a Reddit thread that discusses how hot your late grandmother is. Funnily enough, that is what happened to me, when I realized that a photo I had uploaded to my Tumblr a few years ago had gone viral.

It ended up on countless blogs. It has once again reached the profiles of the acquaintances of my acquaintances - in Estonia, everyone knows everyone and it’s apparently very intriguing that this is unmistakably an Estonian photo. Also, several people are wondering about the backstory, so I will say a few words.

1930s Teenage Delinquents

This photo was given to me by my paternal grandmother Aino, the girl on the far right in the second row, lighting her ciggie on another ciggie. She was about 15 when this picture was taken and these are her friends, however, I have no more specific info on who they are. They used to do amateur theatre, and as far as I know, this picture was taken when they were messing around with a production or some such. My grandmother never smoked but she did have a wicked sense of humour, which was all the more striking because it stood in such a contrast with her very poised and polished appearance (among other things, she left me a pair of lace gloves).

I don’t know about the other girls, but my grandmother married a pharmacist, my grandfather Nikolai. They lived and worked in a small town in Estonia during the Second World War and a German officer, who was billeted at their house, got along so well with them that when the Soviets started advancing, he asked them to go to his family home in Germany (somewhere near Frankfurt) to get away from the war. My grandparents refused and well, my grandfather was deported to Siberia, was released with Khrushchev’s amnesty and returned home, but died only four years later because his health had been ruined.

The most distinct memory I have of my grandmother is going to visit her with my parents and brother and us sitting around her kitchen table, playing Mahjong for hours on an intricate set my grandfather had made himself - handpainted with watercolours, so detailed it would make your jaw drop.

Aino passed away in 2009.





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