Tiiu Rätsep, Estonia

Mrs. Rätsep is a physics teacher. Because of her profession she was aware of most of the dangers concerning nuclear energy. In 1986 she was 30 years old, Estonia was still part of the Soviet Union, and she realized that the Soviet government didn’t really care about people and that an individual’s life held no value. She was interviewed by her pupil Mare Heinluht.

The interview was conducted on the 3rd of December 2010 with Mrs. Tiiu Rätsep, a physics teacher in Audru Secondary School, Estonia. The interview took place in her physics class after lessons. The interview situation was relaxed and open. The answers, however, were rather laconic yes/no answers.

The familiar background of the time-witness

Mrs. Tiiu Rätsep was born on the 14th of March, 1956 in Pärnu, Estonia. At the age of four she moved with her family to Ida-Virumaa, an industrial area in Estonia, where her father worked as a chief agronomist in the local state farm and her mother as a cashier in a shop. She has a brother, with whom she has always had a great relationship. The social status of her family was middle-class workers. Religion had no part in their lives. Mrs. Rätsep has a bachelor’s degree in physics and has worked as a physics teacher since graduating. She’s not legally married but lives with the father of her two adult children. She said to have been firmly opposed to the Cold War. She wasn’t into politics back in her youth and didn’t spend time analyzing the political status and effects of the Cold War. She did say that she didn’t realize any direct effects or consequences to her life during the Cold War.

The knowledge about and the attitude to nuclear energy before the Chernobyl-catastrophe

She didn’t think about the risks of living close to a country with nuclear power plants at the time and such scenarios didn’t seem to be very likely. She was aware of most of the dangers concerning nuclear energy because of her profession, like the harmfulness of radiation and the possibility of inheritable injuries. She was against the use of nuclear energy but wasn’t active in any movements. There wasn’t really a debate about the nuclear situation in Estonia, since we didn’t have any nuclear power plants. She was aware that any safety protocols and regulations must be strictly followed and didn’t think that such an accident would happen. As far as the people knew, there was no such threat. Any knowledge about dealing with a nuclear pollution was very theoretical. While living in the Soviet Union, she realized that the government didn’t really care about people and an individual’s life held no value.

Read the full interview