Sojamoonaga mangimine Eestis Teise maailmasoja ajal ja parast seda: folkloristlik vaatenurk
ESTONIAN CHILDREN’S GAMES USING MUNITIONS DURING AND AFTER WORLD WAR II
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Children who lived in the WWII and post-war period, under the occupation of Nazi Germany (1941–1944) and the Soviet Union (1944–1991), had their own assortment of games. Estonia suffered the fate of being on the battlefront twice – in 1941 and 1944. Among the traces of war that inspired children’s games were munitions scattered around the terrain. In 2013, the Estonian Folklore Archives of the Estonian Literary Museum organised a competition for collecting children’s games. In this paper, I examine the accounts about playing with munitions – mainly cartridges found on the terrain and real gunpowder – collected from people born in the period between the late 1920s and late 1940s. From a folkloristic perspective, I study the descriptions of games collected in the competition in two ways. First, I situate them in their historical-cultural context. The use of left-behind munitions for playing was characteristic of WWII as well as the post-war period and mostly typical of boys. The descriptions emphasise spectacular fireworks and loud cracking. The use of various means (e.g. glowing embers by children herding animals) for making loud sounds, but also real gunpowder in toy guns (sussik in Estonian) was also present in the earlier tradition. Although the respondents might not have perceived the risks associated with these activities back when they were children, their descriptions usually also include their adult point of view: these games were very dangerous. Some claim that they were not aware of the risks; others that they were able to assess them well; still others that they were simply foolhardy. The descriptions of games also reveal a certain perplexity – adult respondents are at a loss to explain why they did those things as children. Left-behind munitions could be obtained quite easily, while conventional toys or means for making them were severely lacking at the time. Thus, children played with whatever they could find and the use of munitions diversified the range of toys available to them. Secondly, I interpret the games with left-behind munitions as a type of game that tests the daring and foolhardiness of players. Dangerous games and risky-play games are discussed in several accounts of children’s games. Researchers suggest that playing dangerous games is driven by the will to make sense of risk-taking and responsibility. Child and developmental psychologists find that such games are characteristic of childhood and adolescence, and that playing them is necessary for normal development. Children’s risk-taking behaviour and testing the boundary between the possible and impossible is an integral part of coming of age and self-realisation during adolescence. Yet, development in the preschool age likewise implies testing one’s capabilities and experiencing the feeling of fear. Munitions were novel and fascinating, and enabled children to apply their inventiveness, sense their bravery, and experience excitement. On the other hand, due to frequent injuries and accidents, one could also find exactly the opposite attitudes toward munitions. Thus, for some people who grew up in that era, munitions are associated with games and new toys, but for others, they are associated with pains of loss and tragedy.
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