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Bluma Lepiku

In summer 2005 the government increased pensions of the people, who had been in the evacuation. We were equaled with those, who had been subject to repression, and provided some similar benefits. However, our utility bills are very high. After paying all bills I have 800 crones [about USD70,-] left, and this is far from sufficient. I don't know how I would manage, were it not for the community support.

It's hard to give a simple answer to the question about the breakup of the Soviet Union. In general the life of Jews in independent Estonia [31] has improved. There is no anti-Semitism now, or there's hardly any, I'd say. Nowadays they have job-related age and qualifications restrictions, but no nationality-based limitations. There are hooligans, but they exist in every country. However, they are just a few individuals, but it is not the policy of the country. Our President shows respect to Jews and highly values our community. He visited the community at the Chanukkah celebration recently. This kind of visit was out of the questions in the past.

I would say this happened to be beneficial to some people and failure for the others. The breakup of the Soviet Union is good for young people, undoubtedly. They have free choices. They can study in any country and they can travel all over the world. They have got more opportunities in Estonia, too. There was no entrepreneurship in the Soviet Union. People could only get jobs at the state-owned enterprises. Nowadays any individual can start his/her own business. This is good for the country.

However, pensioners have surely lost a lot. There were low prices and free healthcare in the Soviet Union. This is very important for the people of my age. Now we have to pay for healthcare services and medications. The members of the parliament responsible for lawmaking studied in free Soviet universities. And now they establish prices for higher education. Is this fair?
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Liya Kaplan

In 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact [15] was signed and the first Soviet military bases were established [16]. Soviet troops came. They acted neutrally, not very confidently. I remember a funny case: a Soviet soldier came to the grocery store and asked gingerly whether he could buy 200 grams of sausages. 'Yes, please,' said the sales assistant. Then in two or three hours he came back again and asked for another 200 grams of sausages. He came in the store several more times and bought some more sausages. Finally, the astonished sales-assistant asked why he wouldn't buy as much as he needs in one go, and he asked, 'Can I?' At that time we didn't know that there were rations in the food stores, we weren't aware that there might be no goods in the stores. We knew nothing about Soviet life. Soviet soldiers couldn't believe they could just walk into a store and buy anything they liked.
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