The Son of a Forester

Paul Maitla, former name Mathiesen (Mattiesen on school certificate), was born in Vana-Kuuste area, in the former Kambja parish in Tartu County. His birth date was March 27, 1913 so one year before the World War I. His father was a forester in Kärkna, his mother Pauline stayed at home. Kärkna is situated on the lower reaches of the picturesque Amme river, not far from Tapa-Tartu highway. The university town Tartu was 11 kilometers from Kärkna. Kärkna settlement had a long history. Tartu Bishop Hermann established the Cistercians monastery in Kärkna on the 13th century. By the time Paul was born, nothing more than ruins were left of the monastery.

Paul was the youngest of his family. He had a sister who was eight years older and a brother who was older than the sister. It is known that his brother was killed in the Estonian War of Independence when Paul was still little. But probably the older brother's death for and in the name of Estonia was one of the factors which gave Paul the push to follow his lead.


Paul began his studies in 1921 in Sipe Elementary, Vana-Kuuste area, when he was eight years old. At that time it was a good education establishment, which was founded in 1853 as the village school and during the republic it got the highest – an elementary with six grades – title. Now it's in ruins. The elementary education certificate no 140 was issued to Paul on May 31, 1927. It was signed by the headmaster E. Püge and three teachers.

The students' knowledge was then evaluated in a three ball system: weak, satisfactory and good. Paul's graduation certificate was average – he had good and satisfactory grades. He was evaluated in ten compulsory subjects plus one voluntary subject, which was religion. For some reason Paul did not get a grade in music. Life manners were evaluated as good. After Sipe's school Paul went to continue his studies in Tartu Commercial Gymnasium. This period in his life is remembered by his deskmate Heinrich Aruksaar: "I was sitting in the first desk when a blonde boy came to me and asked if he can sit next to me. I gladly accepted and so we sat together until the graduation of the electro technology branch in 1934." The deskmate described Paul as a boy with open and direct nature, whose correct behavior was pleasant to all. To get the most out of school, they sat right in front of the teacher's desk. Both Maitla and Aruksaar had patriotic principles.

The amount of good and satisfactory grades on Paul's graduation certificate was almost the same. Paul had problems with Estonian and German. But his persistency, a trait Paul already then had, took him to his goal and in 1934 he graduated the electro technology branch at the Tartu Boys' Gymnasium. In that school he first got acquainted with his future profession in the national defence classes, which was evaluated as good on his graduation card.