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Location: Viljandi, Estonia

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Where is Marta From?

As you may or may not know, Marta is of mixed national and ethnic backgrounds. Two of her great grandparents were Italian, one was Irish, one English and German, three Estonian, and one Estonian and Russian. She has citizenship in two countries, the US and Estonia, and so far has called several locales home.

I got to thinking of where she will eventually "be" from and I decided that Marta is a Tallinner, or Tallinnlane. She was conceived there and born there, and it's really the only place in the world she can actually say she is from.

Marta was conceived, grown, birthed, and nursed with in about a 3 mile square radius. She sprang to life in April 2003 in Kentmanni 9-51, on a bed we left in the apartment that someone else is sleeping on right now (yes, right now, it's almost 2 am there). Then she grew there and at our new digs at Valgevase 4-11 on the other side of the city - being fed lots of Estonian products, until she was birthed at Tallinn Central Hospital - right down the street from Kentmanni. She even had her American citizenship conferred on her across the street on Kentmanni at the American embassy there.

Tallinners are a unique brand of Estonian. While most Estonians have their roots in the country, the Tallinner's country connection comes either via relatives or country house. And while most Estonians are sort of grounded in their potato patches, Tallinners are open to the world. It's one of the few places in Estonia made up of a bunch of smaller, distinct places. Our child was Kalamaja baby - born into a neighborhood of old, 19th century wooden houses directly northwest from the center. But there are Nõmme babies, and Kristiine babies, Pirita babies, Põhja-Tallinn babies, Kadriorg babies, Vanalinn babies, Õismäe babies, Lasnamäe babies, Mustamäe babies - there are a lot of places to be "from" in Tallinn.

Tallinn is sort of defined by its port, but it also is defined by its business-sense. It's the sort of place that draws workaholics, worshippers of power, and over achievers. It's the money place. It even has its own Italian real estate magnet.

I can't tell what Marta will identify with most. Given her looks and Estonian language skills, she'll probably feel very Estonian. But when she is asked where she is from many years ago, she just may have to answer "Tallinn," or at least "Tallinn and New York."


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