Arved Viirlaid fought in the Estonian regiment in Finland during the Second World War, returning to Estonia in 1944. He escaped from Soviet-occupied Estonia, settling first in the United Kingdom, and then moving to Canada in 1953.
Viirlaid has published 9 novels and several collections of poetry. His first novel, Tormiaasta (The Year of Storms) was published in 1949. In 1952, he published Ristideta hauad (Graves Without Crosses), which has been translated from Estonian into seven other languages.  The English translation appeared in 1972, with a preface by John Diefenbaker. His 1965 novel, Sadu jõkke (Rain for the River) has also been translated into English.
- Jüri Talvet, In the other canon: Viirlaid's poetry in English, Estonian Literary Magazine, number 14, 2002. 
- President of Estonia 1992-2001--Official Duties--Decorations of the Republic of Estonia.