"It's been one hell of a journey!"
Ülo Oper was born on 12 July 1947, at DP Camp Greven in North-Western Germany. According to records, Ülo's father Alfred had been conscripted to the Red Army and fallen in battle in Saaremaa. Actually, he had managed to escape to the West. Ülo’s mother, Hulda Mikiver, allegedly escaped from Estonia on a German submarine, leaving behind her child (Ülo's half-brother) from her first marriage. The latter ended up in an orphanage and was adopted some time later. In 1949, the family moved to Australia and settled in Bendigo. Ülo grew up in a multilingual environment, as there were other European war refugees living in the town. However, by the age of 15, he was no longer fluent in Estonian, because his parents did not consider the language necessary. Later, his parents divorced. Despite their son's questions, Alfred and Hulda did not want to recall the war and their life in Estonia, since the departure from their homeland had left a deep wound. Hence, they had no wish to keep up Estonian culture and language in exile. A connection to Estonia was broken. While Ülo was aware of his origins and wanted to learn more about his family's story, his daily routine kept interrupting until 2012. He decided then that it was high time to do something about it. He made enquiries at the Estonian Population Register and discovered he has a half-brother. Thanks to modern technology, he was able to find some maternal relatives, whom he met the same year at Tallinn Airport. Their first meeting was highly emotional. In 2014, Ülo visited the song festival where he met other Estonian Australians for the first time in his life. In 2019 Ülo returned, this time for the jubilee song festival.