In the early ’80’s I started going to Seattle on Saturday nights to go dancing at a ballroom dance hall in Ballard. That was where I met Juri (pronounced Yuri) Eenmaa: a dancer, a physicist and a do-it-yourself genius. He was eleven and a half years younger than I, but he didn’t look it. His had been a hard life.
Juri was born in Estonia in 1940 during the early part of World War ll, which was a devastation for that country. When the Germans first invaded Estonia, they were welcomed because they helped drive out the Russians, who were far more brutal. The war ended when Juri was four. When he was five, the Russians re-invaded. His father had been the equivalent of a supreme court judge, so the whole family would have been killed or imprisoned. Their family of four (Juri had an older sister) left all they had and escaped into Germany. While in Germany, they lived in what had been a concentration camp where each family had a ten foot square space cordoned off with sheets. They lived there for four years. When Juri was nine an American charity sponsored them to move to Los Angeles.
At first he was euphorically happy and excited, only to be disillusioned when they got there. His father, who could not be a judge or even a lawyer in America, worked as a janitor, the only job he could get, not knowing the language. Juri was bullied at school for the same reason: not knowing English. However he excelled at math which has no language, “So I showed them!” he said. I asked why his family hadn’t learned English during their four year interment. He gave me a scathing look. He said “We didn’t expect to come to America! We expected to go back to Estonia!”
Not only did Juri learn English in record time, he got his doctorate in physics earlier than his age group. When I met him, he was a nuclear physicist at the University of Washington and was in charge of the Cyclotron Project: the acquiring and installing of a cyclotron for cancer treatment at the University. He could also play the violin. AND he was an excellent dancer. He knew how to ballroom dance; he knew Estonian folk dances that were so close to Scandinavian folk dances that he picked them up instantly. He started coming to Poulsbo for our Monday folkdance nights. We also continued to go ballroom dancing in Ballard every Saturday night.
Juri and I became lovers. We were together every weekend and on his vacations, for seven years. I ultimately walked away because there was no hope in our ever becoming married or permanently together which was what I wanted. Juri wanted to get married too, but not to me. He wanted to marry a younger woman (hopefully Estonian) and have children, but he could not bring himself to end our relationship in order to do that. So it was left to me. I couldn’t bear to do it either, but I finally bit the bullet. Later he did get married to a woman (American) who already had four young children, but he never had any of his own.
During our years together we had some amazing times. I will relate a few of them that stand out in my memory.