Celebrating Estonia: Narva hosts parade

Anneli Ammas
, reporter
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At yesterday’s Defence Forces military parade, Aleksei, a native of Narva, was delighted to see the many Estonians around – if but for a few days.

«As early as Monday night, we had lots of Estonians here and one heard Estonian spoken everywhere – that does make one glad!» underlined Aleksei who, unlike many in Narva, does travel Estonia a lot. «It’s because of the job,» he explained while stressing Narva-Jõesuu is his absolute favourite spot in the land.

«Looks like every village in Estonia has been built until they now finally reached Narva,» he did add a touch of bitterness. «Out of work elsewhere, one needs to build somewhere.»

Personal link weak

The weather being rainy, misty and dirty, Narva looked not its best yesterday. Nevertheless, thousands of locals, and folks from towns around – like Narva-Jõesuu, Sillamäe, and Jõhvi – had showed up. Rather reservedly, they stood around St Peter’s Plaza and sought to see the parade over each other’s heads.

Unlike parades held in Tallinn and other places, this time the Estonian anthem was mainly sung by servicemen. Not Estonians enough present to make it ring out loud and clear.

Asked what the anniversary of Estonia meant for them personally, natives of Narva looked thoughtful and embarrassed, then admitting they felt little personal link to the day. «It’s both ways. As a citizen of Estonia, this is a festive day, but on the other hands my roots are in Russia,» said Aleksei to explain his mixed feelings.

Even so, the plaza was filled with people with Estonian flags – the ones distributed – in their hands or stuck in coat fronts. As the military machines, seen by some at the rehearsals the day before, roared by, they waved the flags. Especially when the soldiers on the machines smiled and waved to the people. 

«We know that boy, he’s the grandson of out boss – right there in the second machine,» a lady informed those around her, and all stretched their necks for a better view of the lad.

The parents of another serviceman had come from Järva County – not the only ones to drive from afar. For instance, Jaak with a kid from Jõgeva County had picked Narva as their first spot to come see the parade.

Allies in town

The Defence League members in Narva – 170 of the 200 non-Estonians – were out since the dawn and the blue-black-and-white was hoisted to Hermann Castle. «The Russian men are the best we have,» lauded the older Estonian members present.

«This parade was mightier, more technology than the last time,» observed a Narva-dweller Aleksander. «But we are all against war and it is absurd if someone says that Narva would leave Estonia to some other place – no need to speak bad like that,» he added, while his friend Vladimir nodded his vigorous agreement.

When it comes to Ivangorod, the city seen across the river and the border, the men would not even compare that to Narva. «We wish everybody well, but Narva is on a much higher level in everything,» said Aleksander, proud of his home town.

Another man said his relatives from Ivangorod still keep coming groceries-shopping to Narva. But it is not the busloads that used to be, he admitted.

«Narva and Narva-Jõesuu have always been closely linked to St Petersburg and Russian culture,» added Aleksander and listed lots of Russian culture personalities who still love to frequent Narva and Narva-Jõesuu, having houses and apartments thereabouts.

Thinking of NATO allied troops on an EU border town streets, one would have imagined a degree of excitement. In reality, they did draw some curious but rather thoughtful looks. Somebody said they saw a couple of young fellows doing thumbs down as Americans marched past.

After the parade, as military machines were lined up on the plaza and children climbed aboard, some did approach the foreigners and a quite a few mustered the courage to shoot pictures with Americans or the Dutch. 

Yes to army

Traditionally, lady Home Guards – this time from  Alutaguse district together with women from Narva and Jõhvi – offered hot pea soup after the parade. Trying to count the 45 litre kettles, the ladies gave up after the 14th or so. Some locals, not too well off, had enjoyed many a bowl.

«I will most certainly go to Defence Forces!» said a fragile 17 years old Aivar, eating away at the soup. The boy, from an Estonian-Russian mixed family and studying for car mechanic at Sillamäe vocational school, was especially delighted to see the military machines. He just couldn’t turn his eyes away.