Coon Rapids man was drafted into three armies

I’m filling in for Tom Weber on a couple of shows early next week and in one of the segments we’ll be talking about obituaries, a favorite topic on NewsCut, as you probably know, because everyone has a story.

Too often, it doesn’t get told until it appears on the newspaper’s obituary page and Star Tribune reporter Chao Xiong today provides a perfect example.

He writes today of the death of Varjo Jurisoo, of Coon Rapids, who — and stop me if you’ve heard this before — didn’t talk much about his past, according to his son.

Jurisoo had the distinction of being drafted into service by three different armies.

Jurisoo, who was also known as “Joe,” had first been drafted by the Russians at the age of 16, but dodged that only to be drafted by the Germans at age 19 in 1943. He was injured by gunfire during the war, but recovered and returned to battle. He would never see his father again. Political tensions and safety concerns kept him from visiting his mother or brother until he returned to Estonia in 1991, which is when they learned that the brothers had fought on opposing sides.

“He never complained about it,” David Jurisoo noted. “It’s not like he thought, ‘My life’s unfair.’ ”

Jurisoo and other Estonian soldiers fighting for Germany eventually surrendered to U.S. troops and spent a year in a Belgian prisoner-of-war camp. Soon after his release, he was hired as a guard at the Palace of Justice, where he helped guard Rudolf Hess and other war criminals during the Nuremberg trials.

He emigrated to the United States and picked oranges until he was drafted by another army — ours.

“It always strikes me as remarkable that a guy who had to go through so much at such a young age was not only so normal, but so engaged with the people around him,” his nephew tells the Star Tribune. “I think he was like, ‘Well, that’s kind of how life goes.’ ”

  • Jerry

    This reminds me of the story of Koreans in Wehrmacht uniforms who were captured at Normandy. They had been conscripted into the Japanese army, captured by the Russians and conscripted into the Russian army, captured by the Germans and conscripted into the Wehrmacht, before finally surrendering to the Americans at the opposite end of two continents.