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Biography | 1984-2008

The Journey Home

Brigitte arrived in Salo, Finland in the summer of 1984. There she participated in the Bahá’í community, learned Finnish, and gave private English lessons to anyone that was interested. She was also acclimating to the culture in the region.

Brigitte, Bruno & Ija in Salo, Finland - 1987

Brigitte with her brother Bruno and his wife Ija in Salo, Finland - 1987

In 1953, at a Bahá’í conference, Brigitte had volunteered to take the Bahá’í Faith to Estonia. It was not possible to go at the time because it was behind the Iron Curtain, so she went to Shetland instead. In 1956, Brigitte went on Pilgrimage to the Bahá’í World Center in Haifa, Israel. There she met Shoghi Effendi, the grandson of Bahá'u'lláh, founder of the Bahá’í Faith. He said that she should go to Estonia once the Bahá’í Faith was established in Shetland, “circumstances permitting”. With the political shifts in Eastern Bloc, circumstances where changing.

Brigitte began visiting Estonia on a regular basis since it was not far from Finland. She made friends and got to know the few Bahá’ís living there. She began investigating whether she could obtain housing and move there. She was persistent over a period of years and was eventually able to purchase a flat and get permission to move to Tallinn from the Soviet government.

Brigitte’s Flat in Tallinn, USSR - 1990

Brigitte’s Flat on Siili tn in Tallinn, USSR - 1990

With her home now in Tallinn, Brigitte became the corner stone of the nascent Bahá’í community in Estonia. The other Bahá’ís resident there had not been Bahá’ís so long and did not have Brigitte’s deep understanding. Brigitte’s flat became the hub of Bahá’í activity.

Brigitte frequently traveled to other parts of Estonia for Bahá’í activities. As the Eastern Bloc continued to thaw, other Bahá’ís came from abroad to help the Estonian Bahá’í community grow. The picture below is from a train trip to Moscow for the first Bahá’í conference there.

Brigitte on the Train to Moscow – 1990

Brigitte on the Train to Moscow, USSR – 1990

In 1992, the Bahá’í Faith in the Baltic region had advanced enough to establish an administrative body for the three Baltic states: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Brigitte was elected to this body in 1993. By this time Estonia gained independence from the USSR and established itself once again as an independent country. Brigitte and the Bahá’í community formed a good relationship with members of the new government’s Ministry of the Interior.

The first Estonian to become a Bahá’í  and live in Estonia was Hannes Palu an Esperantist. He passed on in 1993.

Brigitte at the funeral of Hannes Palu in 1993

In 1993, Rúhíyyih Khanum, a Hand of the Cause in the Bahá'í Faith, visited Estonia. Brigitte was honored to translate for her. Brigitte first met Rúhíyyih Khanum in Israel when she went on pilgrimage in 1956.

Rúhíyyih Khanum and Brigitte in meeting in Tallinn

An international convention is held in Haifa, Israel every five years to elect the Universal House of Justice, the governing institution of the Baha'i Faith. In 1998 Brigitte attended this event as a representative of the Baltic states.

Baltic delegation to the Bahá'í International Convention, 1998

Brigitte near Bahá'í Holy places in Akka Israel, 1998

Slowly the Bahá’í community grew. In 1999, the Baltic regional administration was replaced by a National Spiritual Assembly in each country. This was a sign that the community had grown and was starting to mature.

First Estonian National Convention – 1999

First Estonian National Convention (Brigitte is in the center of the photo) - 1999

During the long cold Estonian winters, Brigitte would visit her daughter in Providence, Rhode Island and her son San Diego, California. Laurence likes to windsurf and would drag the family down to Baja California, Mexico nearly every year.

Brigitte & Laurence in Los Barrilles, Mexico – 2005

Brigitte & Laurence in Los Barrilles, Mexico - 2005

Brigitte in Los Barriles, Mexico - 2007

Brigitte in Los Barriles, Mexico - 2007

The Hasselblatt family continues to have large reunions every few years. They all seem to get along well and enjoy each other with each new generation. Brigitte is in the middle in the second row along with her brothers and sisters.

Hasselblatt Family Reunion in Goslar, Germany – 2007

Hasselblatt Family Reunion in Goslar, Germany – 2007

In fall of 2007, at the age of 85, Brigitte was diagnosed with breast cancer. It did not dampen her spirit. She continued as an active member of the Bahá’í community. It was arranged for her to move out of the flat that she had moved into 19 years prior and into a flat in the Tallinn Bahá’í Center in order that she not live alone. In early May 2008, Laurence and Luise came to Tallinn to visit and help with the actual move. By this time, Brigitte had become weaker and the cancer had spread. On May 17, one week after Laurence and Luise had returned home, Brigitte passed on.

Luise, Brigitte & Laurence in Tallinn, Estonia – May 8, 2008

Luise, Brigitte & Laurence in Tallinn, Estonia - May 8, 2008

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