In between Two Names


The short documentary from 2019 tells the story of Külliki Kay Sprenk Steen (born in 1939) and her family. In the autumn of 1944, the family was forced to leave their homeland. Külliki's father Johannes Sprenk was a doctor, so the family (Külliki's father, mother Magda, younger sister Merike and grandmother Senni) had the opportunity to leave Tallinn on the hospital ship Moero on September 21, 1944. The ship was full of wounded and refugees. While they were leaving their homeland, they could see the bombed and burning capital.

Already early the next morning, the convoy, which included Moero, was discovered by Soviet reconnaissance planes. A few hours later, another warplane arrived and fired a torpedo at Moero. The ship was hit and began to sink. In the resulting confusion, little Merike was killed, but the rest of the family was picked up by another ship. That way they arrived in Danzig where Külliki's younger sister was eventually buried.

After the end of World War II, the family found themselves in the DP camp in Geislingen from where they later headed across the Atlantic. While settling in New York Külliki also took a middle name, Kay, which was much easier to pronounce in an English-speaking environment than her Estonian name. Although as of 2019, Külliki had never been to her homeland, Estonia and the Estonian language have always been deep in her heart. She has always been following news from Estonia.

According to the director of the short documentary, Annaleena Vaher, one of the most important aims of the film was to remind all Estonians that there have been times in our recent past when we were forced to leave our homeland and we could only rely on ourselves and the help of other countries. Annaleena came across Külliki while she was staying in the small coastal town of Bar Harbor, Maine, as part of her undergraduate studies. In Külliki's case, she was surprised by how well the lady spoke and wrote Estonian. The short documentary "In between Two Names" was created during several meetings when Külliki talked about her life and showed her family's albums. In addition, Annaleena interviewed Külliki’s family members, none of whom speaks Estonian.

According to Annaleena, this short documentary was indeed created in 2019 but it has not been completed yet because, as of the first half of 2023, Külliki has not been to her homeland. The last four years have been so turbulent that the lady has been repeatedly postponing her trip. She still has a plan to visit her homeland and see her childhood places. But at some point Külliki will run out of time. Annaleena hopes that the planned trip will eventually happen this summer because it is important for everyone.