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President of the Republic At the opening of the Skangal battle memorial

22.06.2019

Dear President Vējonis, dear Estonian and Latvian soldiers,

I start with a quote: “We lost exactly a quarter of our personnel as killed and wounded in action. In an ordinary war this is considered enough to turn the whole unit unfit for further combat. But as we fought against our historical enemy, then no downturn of combat capability was noticeable. Not even after the most bitter moments.”

This is how Otto Tief, the war-time commander of the Kalevi Battalion described the ferocious battle of Skangal in an interview 20 years later. These bitter moments of loss and grief must always be remembered when we talk about the Estonian and Latvian wars of independence. Yes, we can and must today rejoice and celebrate victory, but we should never forget the high price that our ancestors payed for this. Never forget the tens of thousands of soldiers that went to war 100 years ago, and those thousands who didn’t return from the battlefields. We owe them very everything.

50 years of occupation and oppression didn’t manage to wipe off the memories that Estonians and Latvians had of their Independence War heroes. The Soviets destroyed monuments and gravestones, but memories remained. Sometimes even the monuments themselves were preserved – concealed by our people.

When we regained our independence then these monuments started to re-appear. It wasn’t the state or government organizations necessarily that reconstructed Independence War memorials. Much often they were recreated by private citizens, civic associations, local municipalities – the Estonian and Latvian people. It’s the same way with this monument. Therefor I would like to thank the Latvian Riflemen Association and the Officers Association of the Kalevi Infantry Battalion who made this happen.

Protecting our independence means remembering our heroes. Let’s remember today the 58 soldiers of the Kalevi Battalion who were killed or wounded here 100 years ago. Remember not only their triumph, but also bitter moments of tragedy. The memory of their fight – and victory – will always encourage us today whenever we should face tough choices and moments.


Thank you!