AFTER CERTAIN DARK FORCES consolidated their power in Estonia, they hit upon a remedy for the most-pressing issue facing the country. All foreigners would be rounded up and removed to a single concentration camp on the Baltic Sea and forced to undertake national work projects. They called it the lõplik lahendus or the “final solution.”
It was unclear who came up with this solution first, but many point to Member of European Parliament Jaak Madison’s statement in August 2019 that “die endgültige lösung ist erforderlich,” or “the final solution is required,” as laying the foundation for what came next. Madison referred to Eritreans, Kazakhs, and Syrians in his anti-immigrant outburst, but all foreigners in Estonia eventually were seen by the powers as suspect and confined to the camp.
They were arrested in the middle of the night and transferred in the backs of Cargobus vans. There had been no prior announcement. Americans, Chileans, Chinese, it made no difference. Each was awakened by a knock at the door and told to take along a few choice personal items.
Adam C., a translator from Minnesota, decided to take a few more Estonian books to translate. Stewart J., a comedian, hid his list of new jokes in his shoes. Louis Z., the Australian entertainer, hid his in his underpants instead. And members of BC Tallinna Kalev agreed to take a basketball. A local instigator who used the pen name Vello — widely considered to be the worst of the bunch — managed to bribe his guards and was allowed to take along several boxes of classic literature.
These would form the backbone of the library of the first cafe that the foreigners opened at the new camp on the seashore, a charming little dive that its owners called “Cafe Final Solution.”
Each new inmate was given a number, a blue-black-and white uniform, and a new tablet. Each was allowed free and unfettered access to the internet. The camp had free wifi and SmartPOST. It was protected by a birch fence and heavily guarded. Many came in, but only few went out.
The work projects envisioned by the state — harvesting potatoes, cleaning and frying enormous batches of mushrooms, mass assembly of birch branch bundles to be sold in gas stations — were undertaken begrudgingly. The trouble was that the foreigners in Estonia weren’t particularly good at agriculture or Estonian national crafts. They had other talents though. Many. As the new forces came to recognize, almost all the best chefs in Estonia were actually immigrants. Alongside Cafe Final Solution appeared Swedish and Italian restaurants and bistros. The best Asian food was to be found on that pathetic little dirt street in the camp for foreigners.
After a hard day of frying mushrooms, the camp’s literary figures would gather at the cafe and write. Even the government started to outsource translation gigs to this assorted gang of foreign rapscallions. No one was ever in need of anything to do and each night there was a basketball game. Diego A., the Chilean barista, would be there making cappuccinos for whoever wanted.
The camp’s popularity, its peculiar success, would also prove to be its downfall. Word began to spread across Estonia about the hip scene at the Cafe Final Solution, the great food, the infinite delights. Old Estonian cassette generation hipsters wanted in. There was a special request for Vaiko Eplik to put on a free concert. Then other musicians wanted to perform there too. Rather than ending something, rather than bringing something to some final solution, the political powers now had to deal with lines of Estonians pleading for them to also be let into the camp. That’s how the camp finally met its end. The birch barricades came down and the foreigners returned to their humdrum lives of raising their Estonian kids and trying to make a living.
It was all over.
I still have the wooden sign from the Cafe Final Solution though. I stole it before the camp was liberated and it hangs on my bedroom wall. Sometimes I toast it with a cup of kasemahl and cry.