A Denver-based author, Kaia Gallagher grew up hearing stories about how her mother and her family escaped from Estonia as World War II was coming to an end. It became a story she wanted to share with others.
During her first visit to Estonia in 1985, she learned about the life her mother left behind. She was also able to retrieve family albums and learn what life was like in Estonia before the war years.
When Estonia regained its independence in 1991, Kaia gathered more information about the country’s wartime history. Because of its strategic location along the western border of the Soviet Union, Estonia was first taken over by the Soviets in 1940, occupied by the Germans in 1941 and then when World War II ended, the country was absorbed into the Soviet Union for the next fifty years.
In 1991Estonia finally regained its independence when the Soviet Union was dissolved. A few years later, Kaia’s brother, Michael, moved to Tartu where he has lived for more than twenty years. With Michael’s help, Kaia travelled to Estonia in 2014 and gained access to family records from the Estonian National Archives that traced the tragic fate of close relatives who died. They, along with other Estonians were caught between the Soviet Red Army and the German Wehrmacht, with no right side to choose.
As a writer, Kaia enjoys experimenting with multiple genres including memoir, personal essay, and flash fiction. In addition to earning an MFA in creative writing from the University of California-Riverside, Kaia has a Ph.D. in Sociology from Brown University. She is a graduate of Tufts University and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware.