helene - the memory of masts

The project “Helene - the Memory of Masts” is a story about the sailing ship Helene (built in 1903) 

and the lives of the estonian people who fled the port of Kõiguste in autumn of 1944.

The project “Helene - the Memory of Masts” is a story about the sailing ship Helene (built in 1903) and the lives of the Estonian people who fled the port of Kõiguste in the autumn of 1944.

It was in the midst of World War II, Estonia was under German occupation, but the Red Army was making gains. After the fall of Tallinn on September 22, it was only a matter of days before the West Estonian islands would be reached. The Helene, belonging to some Estonian distilleries, had been brought to the Port of Kõiguste by her owners already in 1941. Obviously with a clear agenda….

On September 24, 1944, M/S Helene's last mission was to save the lives of 483 people (more than half of them women and children), and take them to the free world. In addition to the islanders, many families from all over Estonia had a place on board. The highly dramatic voyage across the stormy Baltic Sea on the overcrowded Helene lasted three days and two nights. The ship moored in Furusund, Sweden late in the evening of September 26. 

The research material includes the complete passenger list and notes written by those who were on the trip and their descendants about the conditions in Estonia at that time, travel to Saaremaa, boarding and sailing, and new beginnings elsewhere. But there are also memories of these dramatic events held by locals.


The research project and the project as a whole will focus on five objectives:

 1. Indoor exhibition - A model of the ship and a memoir in the style of a logbook, which contains edited photos and research materials in Estonian and English, will be exhibited in the premises of the Kõiguste Port building.

2. Outdoor exposition - A memorial of three stylized “masts” and benches with an outdoor sound system, and “sails” with a concise story of the Helene in Estonian and in English. Audio files will be read by actors from Saaremaa both in Estonian and in English.

3. Audio stories - recordings of five to six of the most outstanding researched stories in an edited form as audio stories. Audio tracks are published on the website as audio files as well as in pdf format.

4. Introducing the project to the public - the grand opening of the "masts" memorial and the launch of the Helene’s story on September 24, 2021

5. Releasing the material to the Maritime Museum and sharing the data through MUlS (Museums’ Public Portal) with the public (contact Ruth Ristmägi).

Estonval-2 - Purjelaev Estonaval merel,

M/S Helene hoists her sails again on September 24, 2021.

At Kõiguste Port.

The project is supported by: The National Archives of Estonia, Estonian Cultural Endowment, Saaremaa Municipality Government.


The project is carried out by Kõiguste Lahe Kogukond MTÜ (Kõiguste Bay Community NGO). It is a non-profit community organization involving the village communities from around Kõiguste Bay. The main area of ​​activity is the improvement of the local living and social environment through projects that enliven and develop the local life and the preservation of the cultural heritage of the area.


Project team:

The collection of research material, and project management Külli Akkermann koigustelk@gmail.com +3725061922

The collection and editing of research material - Mare Kallas

The editing of research material and generating outputs - Krislin Kämärä, curator of the Maritime Museum

The design of information boards and logbook - Erkki Pennanen

The artistic solution for the outdoor exhibition - Margus Kadarik


The story of M/S Helene is an important part of the history of Estonia and Saaremaa, including the traditional culture we collect, the story of saving the lives of 500 Estonians. Bringing the stories of the boat refugees and their descendants into a place of remembrance at Kõiguste restores the ties broken in the whirlwind of war.

Your help and support is needed to set up memorial masts on the shore of Kõiguste!