Evi Johanna (Koppel) Carmichael


I was born in Tallinn, Estonia and lived there until my mid teens through the first Russian occupation and the German occupation. I escaped in Sept. 1944 just one day before the second Russian occupation (which lasted for 45 years) I arrived in a small ship at Danzig and first lived in Silesia and then, as the red army advanced in various parts of Germany, where I had to work very hard. I was in Dresden on the 13th Feb 1945 and left just before “The Dresden Bombing” I saw it from a distant field.


I have always loved drawing and painting. Even as little girl I had my “art corner” in my room and won some competitions. I dreamt of going to Art College and becoming a “Real Artist”

There was no time for art during the war years, wandering through Germany and Austria. At the end of the war in a displaced persons camp near Stuttgart I had a chance to learn to paint at the Estonian Artists Studio (for displaced persons) for a few months. Art materials were obtainable only on the black market in Nurnberg with cigarettes and coffee. Luckily we received these items from UNRRA with food parcels. I sold my first painting “Pink Cyclamen” for a packet of 20 camel cigarettes.

I remember it so well.

In 1947 I came to Edinburgh with the “White Swans” scheme for displaced persons to work in the RIE as a waitress in the staff dining room. Oh what luck – I discovered that the Art College was almost across the street. The Assistant matron came along to enrol me in evening classes for drawing. One year later I was permitted to start nursing training at the RNI Inverness. No time for any art except drawing beautiful bones and body parts in anatomy lessons. I was given special time off for painting posters and menus for Matron’s and Doctor’s Christmas dinners etc. Also painting stage backgrounds for nurse’s shows – awful!

I had English lessons at school in Estonia and also from Canadians and Americans in the camps in Germany. At school we also had to learn German and Russian as nobody but Estonians speak Estonian, quite similar to the Finnish language – hence my “home made” accent! To my very big surprise I received the Gold Medal for nursing at my graduation in 1951 After graduating I obtained a staff-nurse position in Thoracic Surgery at the EGH Edinburgh. In 1952 I married John and became a full time housewife and mother for 17 years. Once the girls were a little older I went to evening classes for Art at Portobello High School and later on to some evening classes at Edinburgh Art College in oil painting and life drawing. Before retiring in 1996 I had worked for 21 years as a part time staff nurse in the Edinburgh Dental Hospital in the General Anaethsthetic Dept.

Since retiring I have been painting more and more and enjoying it. I have been a HAC member since 1970 and served for some years on the council

My “artistic high” was being hung at the RSA and my low was the occasion when someone stole my painting –taking the frame and leaving the painting!

I think I am very lucky to live in Edinburgh and in Scotland where there is so much beauty to paint