Lighthouse keeper Anne-Ly Gross-Mitt

Lighthouse keeper’s dynasty began with Elmar Kares, the great-uncle of Anne-Ly Gross-Mitt. After World War II, he was appointed superintendent of the Suurupi lighthouses and began to rebuild the war-torn upper lighthouse complex. Until then, he lived with his family in the lower lighthouse.

In 1978, the great-uncle retired and was succeeded by stepfather Peet. Anne-Ly grew up in the upper lighthouse complex. The stepfather was the lighthouse superintendent for 20 years. After his death, Helle Kares, the mother of Anne-Ly Gross-Mitt, replaced him and served as a superintendent for 5 years. In 2002, lighthouse keeping positions were removed due to technological advances.

During the USSR, Rannaküla became a forbidden area where border guards kept watch with guard dogs, guns and launchers. Residents of seaside farms were forcibly relocated. Anne-Ly even remembers when they were sneaking up to the sea as a child in the evening – the beach sand was raked at ten o’clock to identify the people walking in the evening and at night. The lighthouses continued to work during the Soviet Era, were kept in good order and maintained. Oil lamps were replaced by electric lamps. Fishing with compulsory radio communication sessions. Suurupi lighthouses were special because Estonians worked here. They were always in order, and when it came to showing the lighthouse, high-ranking guests from Moscow or foreign national visitors were also brought here. Anne-Ly Gross Mitt remembers many things about her childhood. At the time, at the age of 7, radio communications with the centre and the ships were kept in the secondary room in living quarters. She still remember the code message: “Osokoriit, osokoriit ja proba. Tritsat sem devjanosto”. This means “all is good”. ‘Osokoriit’ meant centre, and ‘proba’ meant the Suurupi lighthouses.

On Sunday, 30 April 2017, mainland Estonia’s oldest, Suurupi upper lighthouse, opened its doors to visitors. After many years the preparation process came to an end and Harku Municipality got its first tourist destination. Anne-Ly and Kristiina, the daughters of Helle Kares (last Suurupi lighthouse keeper), brought the lighthouse to life for people, who had grown up at the foot of Suurupi upper lighthouse. Lighthouse was 257 years old when it opened its doors to visitors.

Anne-Ly Gross-Mitt in lighthouse, 2015. Photo: Marcus Bell

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