Carried by a Magic Fan

Memoir of an Estonian Refugee Family


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About the Book

Set against the backdrop of World War II and accented by the birth, demise and rebirth of a nation, this memoir chronicles a Baltic refugee family’s escape from Estonia to the United States. Spanning nine decades and three continents—and incorporating an essay by his mother, his parents’ letters, and conversations with his father—Jaak Treiman describes his family’s journey and life afterward as they sought the American dream. As they settled into their new lives, they kept memories of their homeland alive by engaging in political activities that contributed to the break-up of the Soviet Union, including strategizing with dissidents behind the Iron Curtain, engaging in court battles, and attending meetings with American presidents.

About the Author(s)

In addition to being Estonia’s longest serving Honorary Consul Jaak Treiman is a member of the Los Angeles Consular Corps’ Executive Committee and past Board Chair of the U.S.-Baltic Foundation. While practicing law in Los Angeles, Treiman has also worked with nonprofit organizations in Somaliland and Afghanistan.

Bibliographic Details

Jaak Treiman
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 273
Bibliographic Info: 90 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9150-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4981-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface to the Estonian Edition 1
Preface to the English Edition 4
Introduction 7
1. Mother’s Time in Russia 11
“How my father managed to feed me is still a mystery.”
2. Upheavals 14
“All citizens … irrespective of their religion, ethnic origin, and political views, shall enjoy equal protection under the law and courts of justice.”
3. Mother’s Childhood, Estonia in the 1920s 23
“Our sow and I had many conversations.”
4. My Father’s Family 32
“Perhaps someday you will find this information of interest and be able to use it.”
5. A Brief Normality 36
“We savored the joy of living.”
6. Foreign Occupations 42
“Nothing in life remains constant…”
7. Two Weddings and an Exit 46
“Alfred was a man of few words.”
8. Back and Forth 50
“I am left to speculate.”
9. Escape 54
“I heard the sound of guard dogs…”
10. A New Life: Joys and Worries 60
“Freedom is priceless. Living under dictatorial power destroys a person’s life.”
11. Uncertainty 72
“…it is Sweden’s wish that refugees return to their homes.”
12. New York 82
“I will jump ship at the first opportunity.”
13. America to Australia 89
“The passport control people even wished us a good trip.”
14. Australia—Getting Started 101
“We moved five times during our first year.”
15. Australia—Settling In 107
“More Estonians are coming to Australia.”
16. Leaving Australia 115
“Go? Of course! America.”
17. Establishing New Roots 121
“We arrived in Los Angeles on … Thanksgiving Day.”
18. Restarting Our Business 128
“Father had put the fingertip in his pocket …”
19. Bridging Generations and History 134
“Even if you don’t see my parents’ actual words, they are still present.”
20. Lessons Learned—University 136
“Don’t believe what we say in public.”
21. In the Army 140
“An education in the logic of the illogical”
22. Baltic American Freedom League 146
“Unity brings strength.”
23. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics 155
“A little too political.”
24. America’s Nonrecognition Policy 163
“The people of the United States are opposed to predatory activities…”
25. Appointment as Honorary Consul 167
“I Can Always Quit.”
26. Flying the Flag 173
“Subtlety was not his strong suit.”
27. Visitors and Guests 185
“We were watching Estonia’s rebirth.”
28. Los Angeles Marathon: A Story in Four Parts 196
Part 1. Los Angeles Marathon 1987 196
“‘Estonia’ was spelled perfectly.”
Part 2. Los Angeles Marathon 1988 202
“Please register me for the March 6, 1988, Los Angeles Marathon.”
Part 3. Los Angeles Marathon 1989 206
“…our parallel universes met.”
Part 4. Los Angeles Marathon 1990 214
Joy and Disappointment
29. Conversations with American Presidents 218
“Mr. President, we have taken way too much of your time.”
30. Reconnecting with Family 228
“They were familiar strangers.”
31. Independence Restored 237
“…these ends required new beginnings.”
Epilogue 241
Further Readings 249
Index 255