Walking in My Grandmother’s Shoes: A Refugee Story from a Country You May Never Have Heard Of

Rebecca Kiil

Past and present collide when you walk back in time 75 years to experience the story of a 26-year-old physician and mother, having lost all of her men to war, fleeing from her homeland of Estonia to get her baby girl to safety.


This installation is a part of INTER\VIEWS: an inter\active oral history exhibition, showcasing multimedia projects and stories recorded by the 2018-2019 cohort of Columbia University’s Oral History MA program. Register here!



Come have tea with my 101-year-old grandmother in her apartment. She has a story to tell you, one that she has only recently started to share. Then walk with her into her memories—memories that feel as real to her now as when the events she describes happened, almost 75 years ago. Her story is the story of tens of thousands of other Estonians, who lost family members and fled their homeland to escape the brutality of the Stalin’s regime.


Part I

Part II

This piece is a sound walk, designed to be listened to while walking—in a location of your choosing. This piece is approximately 25 minutes long.

Music: Pärt, Arvo. "Fratres (For Cello and Piano)". Fratres. Perf. I Fiamminghi, the Orchestra of Flanders. Cond. Rudolf Werthen. Telarc, 1995, CD.

Part III

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Rebecca Kiil, a member of this year’s OHMA cohort and Salt Institute of Documentary Studies alum, is documenting the stories of her maternal and paternal grandparents, who fled their homeland of Estonia during World War II. Through her project, the RAHU Peace Through Storytelling Project (rahu is Estonian for peace), Rebecca is also documenting the first-hand accounts of other Estonians who escaped during that time and is exploring how these experiences and stories are passed down and embodied by subsequent generations.