For ship docked here, Estonian flag is brought for the long haul

March 04, 1992|By Rafael Alvarez | Rafael Alvarez,Staff Writer

The heart of Estonia was delivered to Baltimore yesterday in a thin cardboard box.

Arriving by UPS, it was carried down to the end of Newkirk Street on the Highlandtown waterfront, taken aboard a gargantuan grain ship waiting to be loaded with soybeans, and given to a man who understood.

Delivered was a regulation-size blue, black and white flag of independent Estonia, now flying for the first time since 1940 from the staff of a ship docked in Baltimore.

"These colors are very dear to us, I can assure you we will fly these colors in honor," said Capt. Heimar Malk, captain of the former Soviet merchant ship Ivan Babushkin as he accepted his homeland's flag from members of the Baltimore Estonian Society.

A native of the island of Saaremaa, Captain Malk looked back on the many years he sailed ships flying the Communist red flag of the U.S.S.R. and said, "We wish that this flag will fly for a long time over Estonian ships and misfortune will never again come over Estonia."

When the Babushkin -- soon to be renamed the Elmar Kibistik after a former Estonian Olympian -- arrived empty in Baltimore on Sunday to wait for a shipment of Mississippi soybeans, Captain Malk came ashore to seek fellow countrymen.

At the time, his ship was flying from its stern a small Estonian flag.

Captain Malk made his way to Fort McHenry, the National Aquarium and eventually to the Estonian House at 1932 Belair Road, where he met Fred Ise and his wife, Anne, society President Toivo Tagamets and others in the local Estonian community of about 400 people.

The society was founded in Baltimore in 1935 by visiting Estonian seamen, and once current members learned Captain Malk's vessel was sailing without a regulation-size flag, they ordered one from the National Capital Flag Co. in Alexandria, Va.

Mr. and Mrs. Ise, along with Mr. Tagamets, delivered it to the ship yesterday to remind the world that Estonia again is free.

They stood on deck with the captain yesterday as freighters and automobile ships from around the world passed under the Key Bridge or were pulled to berth by tugs.

The blue, Mr. Ise explained, stands for the sky and for hope; the black is a symbol of the earth; and white represents ideals -- all of which were rekindled when Soviet Communism fell in August.

"We never doubted Estonia would be free again," he said. "The only question was when."

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