Latvia Under the Soviets

Life in Limbaži During the Occupation

Those who stayed behind. I didn’t do any adjusting on this photo.

I recognize only two people in this photo even though I’m probably related to most of them. My grandmother is in the middle of the middle row between the two little boys. The tall, blond guy is my youngest uncle, Andrejs.
The invasion of Rīga. 1940. (Wiki)

When my parents, two uncles, and other Francis relatives fled Latvia ahead of the Soviet invasion in 1944 my mom’s mother refused to go. I can only guess the reasons for her decision. She didn’t want to live her country, her culture, and the life she knew. She probably thought she was too old to start a new life in a foreign country. Many people thought that the Allies would drive out the Soviets and that their family members would come home soon. Maybe Oma didn’t want to leave the place where her husband was buried. Andrejs was only eleven or twelve at the time so it’s only natural that he stayed with his mother.

The pharmacy in the town of Mālpils where my mother worked.

My parents had been married only about two months when the Red Army invaded. They were living in Mālpils where they met and where they both worked. My father was the postmaster. Mālpils is about 50 miles (80 km) from Limbaži. His family lived in Alūksne, which is twice as far away, close to the border with Russia. My father was also a telegrapher. I don’t know if he tried to contact either family by phone or telegraph. The Soviet army was between Alūksne and Mālpils so making contact was no doubt impossible. My folks felt they had no choice but to flee. During the first invasion of Latvia in 1940, my father barely escaped being deported to Siberia. His name was on a list of those to be deported but a friend saw the list and warned him. My father hid out in the forest for two weeks until it was safe to return. My parents, too, probably thought they’d be able to return when the war was over and that Latvia would be liberated from the Russians. They never dreamed that they’d never see their country or families again.

The cemetery in Limbaži where my maternal grandfather lies buried. The arrow points to his grave.

The Soviets desecrated many graves. When I was in Latvia during the waning days of the Soviet era, I visited Brāļu kapus Bretherns’ Cemetary where Latvian war veterans were laid to rest. The names and dates on the Latvian patriots’ gravestones had been chiseled away.

My Oma and her chickens. I couldn’t do much to improve the resolution of this photo.

My maternal grandparents’ house has a big backyard. Their property was even bigger before the new government decided that it was too big for just one family and took part of their land away. No doubt the backyard chickens helped the family survive the many food shortages during the years of occupation.

We sent packages with clothes, food, hygiene products, cigarettes, gum, and other items they could use themselves, barter, or sell on the black market. We also sent a teddy bear and a big ball.

My cousin, Reinis helping his dad construct a greenhouse.

Andrejs was quite the entrepreneur. Private businesses were not allowed in the Soviet Union. Andrejs didn’t let that bother him. He had a family to support, a wife and daughter as well as his mother and son. Andrejs raised tulips to sell to anyone who’d buy them. Latvians love flowers and give them on many occasions so he did very well. Other Latvians who lived in more rural areas did the same. On the way to Forest Park Cemetery, I saw little old ladies selling flowers in the street. That was not good enough for my uncle. Andrejs traveled all over the western and southern USSR peddling his flowers. His biggest day was March 8, International Women’s Day when every woman could expect to receive bouquets.

An envious neighbor, seeing my uncle’s nice greenhouse, reported him to the authorities. Andrejs was arrested and spent two years in jail for “speculation.” He didn’t let that deter him. Once he was released from prison he went back to growing tulips, except that he moved his greenhouse into the building at the back of the photo above. Out of sight, out of mind.

My uncle was handy with his hands as you had to be because so many items they needed weren’t available in stores. When I visited he expressed his frustration at being unable to find a trailer hitch so he could attach a trailer to his car so he could haul more tulips to market. He’d have to make one himself, he told me.

My Oma and her two youngest grandchildren, Ilze and Reinis. This should have been my lap, too.

My Oma had seven grandchildren but she got to see only two of them grow up. Four of them wound up in Australia. The seventh, me, in the United States. Like my father’s parents, my Oma passed away years before I was able to visit Latvia.

I love this photo of Ilzīte (affectionate diminutive of Ilze) and her teddy bear from America.

I included this photo because it tugs at my heart. I should have been able to play with this precious little doll and her brother. By the time I visited Latvia, they were all grown-up.

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Latvia Between Wars

Life in my mother’s hometown, Limbaži: a photo essay

Whether or not they are familiar with this Welsh word, Latvians and most refugees know the feeling very well. Even their children and grandchildren know. Its a feeling that seems to be in our DNA and is passed down from generation to generation.

Our refugee parents and grandparents spoke of Latvia as if it were a cross between Camelot and Brigadoon.

A stamp with the coat-of-arms of Limbaži

Between the first and second World Wars Latvia was a free, prosperous, and independent republic.

Town Hall with a kiosk in front

I don’t know what holiday the flag display is celebrating. My guess would be that it’s not Latvia’s Independence Day, which falls on November 18th. I would expect there to be snow on the ground in November since Latvia is almost on the 57th latitude. Even Moscow is farther south. Aberdeen, Scotland, and Kalmar, Sweden are on the same latitude. However, the Gulf Stream keeps Lativa warmer than one might expect so perhaps the holiday being commemorated is Independence Day. It’s a pity that there’s no writing on the back of this postcard.

Outdoor stage in Limbaži. Rīga is not the only town in Latvia where song festivals are held.

The first nationwide song festival in Latvia was held in Rīga in 1873 during the National Awakening. Latvia was still part of the Russian Empire then. It didn’t succeed in throwing off the Russian yoke until 1918, although an unsuccessful attempt was made during the Russian Revolution of 1905. Many Latvians who had participated in the failed uprising fled the country to save themselves and their families from Russian retribution.

Limbažu (possessive case) Evangelical Lutheran church.

These are Girl Guides, the Latvian version of girl scouts in the church my mom’s family attended. My mother is the flag-bearer. I don’t know what the occasion or even what the date was. Too many photos with nothing written on the back.

A home economics class.

There are so many things about this photo that I love. Most of all that it includes my mother as a young woman. She’s the one ducking her head and smiling. In photos, she’s frequently the only one who’s smiling. I also love the meat grinder. My mother had one just like it here in the United States. I also love the bowl, the fat little pitcher, and the scale.

A piano teacher, in the middle of the second row, and her students.

My mother’s oldest brother, Leonīds Francis is in the first row on the far left. The smiley face, fourth from the left in the front row, is my mother. She was the third of four children, the only girl. Maybe she’s around eight or nine in this photo.

At my maternal grandparents’ house. My mother’s tribe, the Franču (Francis) family. My mother and her cousin are sitting on the far right in the first row. My grandfather is first on the right in the middle row. My grandmother is third on the left in the middle row. My mother’s older brothers are on each end of the third row. The man in the uniform is one of my grandfather’s brothers, Gen. Francis. Many of these people I don’t recognize.

The occasion for this gathering might have been the christening of my mother’s baby brother. The local pastor is sixth from the left in the last row. He was one of the fortunate ones who escaped the Soviet invasion and wound up in the same American town as my family and I. Only five of the people in this group were able to escape the Soviet invasion of Latvia in 1944.

I was able to visit this house when I visited Latvia. Many of the people in this photo, including both my grandparents and my great-uncles and great-aunts, were gone by then. One of my uncles came to the United States but stayed on the East Coast when we moved out west. I was four or five when we moved. I never saw my favorite uncle, the one who stayed in Pennsylvania again. For three and a half years he shared quarters with my parents, my father’s brother, and me in the Displaced Person’s camp in Germany. My mother’s oldest brother found refuge for himself and his family in Australia.

These are the people and the town the Russians robbed me of as they robbed many others in all three Baltic States and Eastern Europe. And now, Ukrainians.

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The First Day of School in Latvia

A Photo Essay

Photographs from the beginning of the new school year in Jelgava, Latvia provided by Andris Bērziņš, Honorary Consul for the Republic of Latvija to the State of Indiana and the newly appointed president of the Jelgava and Carmel, Indiana Sister Cities, Inc. And, not least, a friend. His mother’s family was from Jelgava.

Jelgava city flag.

Jelgava is a city of approximately sixty thousand residents located in Zemgale, the central region of Latvia

The first day of school is special and exciting everywhere especially if it’s a child’s very first first day of school. It’s known as “Knowledge Day.”

In Latvia, things are done a bit differently. The first day of school is a big deal for everyone. The president of Latvia, Egils Levits and Prime Minister Prime Minister Krišjānis Kariņš sent greetings and good wishes to pupils and teachers.

Education and Science Minister Ilga Šuplinska had this message for school children, “Let this exciting energy, the joy of meeting up and being together, inspire you throughout the school year! We all have one goal – we want to be ourselves: strong, smart, and sensitive – today, tomorrow, and into Latvia’s common future. So let’s cheer each other up on a daily basis when we meet in both the real world and the virtual world,” she said.

Welcoming kids on the first day of school in Jelgava.
Parents accompany their children to school on the first day. Looks like the days of everyone wearing uniforms to school are over.
Children wear their best clothes and bring flowers to their teachers.
Teachers waiting for pupils.
An armload of flowers for the teacher.

Bringing flowers to the teacher is not the only difference in how children behave in school in Latvia.

My first day of school was in the United States. When I came home from school my parents asked if children stood up, as a sign of respect when the teacher entered the classroom. When I said, “no,” my father said that I should stand up anyway. Even though I was shy and timid there was no way on earth I was going to stand up when no one else did. I was sure the teacher would either think I was being naughty or that I needed to go to the bathroom already. In either, case, I’d probably get a scolding. Of course, I never told my father and he never asked again.

When I was in high school and told my parents what classes I had to take their astonished response was, “Is that all?” “Study hall? Why do you need study hall? You can study at home.” I expected that reaction and wouldn’t have taken study hall but no other class fit into my schedule. That happened only once.

During my school years, I was pen pals with my cousin, who is one month younger. The diaspora took her family to Australia. At the beginning of the new school year, her letters included a list of classes she was taking. I was embarrassed to tell her how few my required classes were. So, if I had a class in social studies/history, I would make it sound like two different classes, social studies and history.

In Latvia, school requirements are so rigorous that graduating from high school is the equivalent of two years of college in the USA. I wonder if I would ever have made it through high school if I’d attended school in Latvia.

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White Tablecloth Festival: Celebrating Lativa’s 2nd Independence Day.

(Thank you to my friend for allowing me to use her photos. She prefers to remain anonymous. You know who you are)

On May 4th, 1990 the Supreme Council of the Latvian SSR adopted a resolution “On the Restoration of the Independence of the Republic of Latvia”, turning a new white page in the history of Latvia. The White Tablecloth Festival celebrates the anniversary of Latvia’s renewed independence after decades under Soviet rule.

A clean new page is understandable but why a white tablecloth? The cloth was chosen as a symbol of national pride, unity, and self-confidence. On feast days tables are traditionally set with a white linen tablecloth. Latvian friends, neighbors, and families all over the world, those in Latvia and the Latvians of the Diaspora in their adopted homelands are encouraged to gather together as one family to celebrate Latvia’s renewed independence with reverence and joy.

The white tablecloth also symbolizes that Latvia’s break with the Soviet Union was achieved relatively peacefully through diplomacy with the occupying power.

Except for social media I’ve been out of touch with my local Latvian community. I’m not even sure if they’ve adopted the White Tablecloth Festival. I learned about it just the other day when a friend in Ohio shared photos of her Latvian community’s celebration of this anniversary.

It’s about time more attention was paid to this important holiday which usually gets little notice compared to Latvia’s original Independence Day. November 18th has been celebrated by Latvian exiles in their new countries. During the years of Soviet occupation, such a celebration was illegal in Latvia.

Buffet at the Latvian Center in Cleveland.

Whenever Latvians gather to celebrate there is always lots of food. On this special occasion in Cleveland, there were also speeches (hardly a unique occurrence) recitations of poetry, shared memories, and stories about what it means to be a Latvian. They also saw a video about the dedication of a monument to a Latvian freedom activist who died shortly before renewed independence became a reality.

Intricate drawnwork (Dresden work) embroidery.

The day before the party participants were invited to bring heirloom tablecloths that were handmade by their mothers and grandmothers to be displayed on the walls of the Latvian Center.

Crewel embroidery on a linen tablecloth.
Textile works of art. Some might even have been brought along when fleeing from the Soviet invasion of Latvia in 1944.

Of course, human nature being what it is, especially Latvian human nature, not everyone is eager to embrace the White Tablecloth Festival. Some people think it’s silly because white tablecloths are used for every celebration that involves feasting (all of them) Others prefer the name Renewal of Independence Day. I think White Tablecloth Festival is more of an attention grabber.

Glory to Latvia!

Whatever it’s called, May 4th is a day to celebrate the restorations of freedom.

As we celebrate we are all hoping that there will soon be a day for Ukraine to celebrate renewed peace and freedom.

Glory to Ukraine!

To clarify any misunderstanding. I am not collecting money for Ukraine. I prefer to leave that to long-established and respected organizations such as CARE, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, and other charities. The donations are compensation for me for my work on the blog, researching, writing, and illustrating. I apologize for not making this clear.

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Ancient Latvian Folk Dress

From the 11th to the 14th centuries, CE.

The colorful folk costumes most Latvians are familiar with may seem to have been around forever, but they actually date back only as far as the 19th Century.

“Modern Latvian National Costumes”

Photos of archaeological folk costumes were used with permission from the Latvian National Cultural Center.

These are the garments worn by the peoples from the various tribes that came together to form modern Latvia. The folk costumes, decorations, and jewelry were recreated from fragments found in archeological digs. The clothing shown here is very similar to that worn by other Nordic people.

The word Nordic derives from “nord” meaning “north,” which would include the people of Northern Europe who live along the Baltic Sea.

I love the subtle colors of these costumes, especially the different shades of blue.

Map of Latvia’s different regions.

The regions of Latvia where these folk costumes were worn. Courland. Senigallia. Livonia. Vends, a county by the Venta River. Selonia. Latgalia.
11th Century Livonian (Lībiešu) folk dress.

The woman’s wool cloak is decorated with braided bands and fringe around the edges. She’s wearing a narrow belt that’s the precursor of elaborately woven modern belts of the 19th Century. On her belt, she is wearing small chains that hold tools, such as keys, sewing needles, and amulets. Modesty required that married women keep their hair covered. Rings were made of bronze or an alloy of lead and tin.

The information from the Cultural Center doesn’t specify how the blue color was achieved. However, it was most likely woad, Isatis tinctoria, which was used throughout Europe until the 17th Century. Crafters in our century also use dye from the Isatis tinctoria plant.

11th Century Livonian (Lībiešu) warrior’s tunic.

Decorations on men’s clothing are minimal, except for embroidery at the neckline which is fastened with the same style horseshoe-shaped brooch. He’s wearing a leather belt with a tooled scabbard for his dagger.

11th Century Livonian folk costume for a 2-3-year-old child.

Children were adorned with more jewelry and their clothes were more elaborately decorated than clothes for adults.

The mantle is studded with woven-in bronze studs. The linen shirt and wool shawl are fastened with horseshoe-shaped brooches, a design that is still used in Latvian jewelry. Her torc necklace is decorated with metal tassels that are used to this day in Latvian jewelry design. My mother once has a silver bracelet like the headband the model is wearing.

Unmarried women wear headbands or coronets of flowers, metal, or fabric that are embroidered and decorated with beads and crystals. Each region has its own characteristic designs.

An interpretation of a 12th-13th Century Couronian (Kuršu) simple and practical warriors clothing.

The outfit consists of a shirt, trousers, tunic, and cloak. In the days before buttons brooches were used to fasten garments. The warrior’s status in society was indicated by his weapons–helmet, sword, and shield.

14th Centurļļy Latgalian (Latgaļu) recreated costume.

The Fourteenth Century brought many changes to clothing. The mantle is more ornately woven of wool and linen in more intricate patterns and decorated with fringes and fiber tassels, instead of metal ones. The bracelets are more delicate. The coronet is decorated with yellow glass beads.

Photos by Mārtiņš Cīrulis

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Candle Day: Latvia

February 2 Sveču Diena, affectionately known as Svecīšu Diena

February 2 is a cross-quarter day. It’s the day that marks the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. Depending on which hemisphere you’re in the cross-quarter day could also fall on February first. In the northern hemisphere, it means that winter is on its way out and spring is just around the corner.

Halfway to spring. Winter is going.

In Latvia, February second is called Candle Day. In fact, all of February is known as Candle Month. I’m not sure why maybe because it’s a dark month requiring more candles to brighten things up.

For many centuries Candle Day was a day for making candles out of wax or tallow. I imagine that by the time winter was half over the store of candles had been used up and needed to be replenished. Candles that are made on this day are supposed to burn bright and last long.

Flames can assist with meditation.

Candles are symbols of warmth and light. A flame is magical; it bears the powerful energy of light. It can calm and cleanse, but it can also destroy.

Candle Day traditions and practices vary from region to region. 

The most important thing is to be jovial to laugh and sing so you’ll be jovial happy, and full of laughter all year. To help the jollity along one must drink a great deal of beer and eat a lot.

Spending lots of money on this special day means you’ll be prosperous for the rest of the year.

Weather forecasting on this day in Latvia doesn’t involve rodents.

Dripping eaves mean a lovely spring.

A hard freeze means don’t expect a warm spring.

Fog on February second indicates that a rainy summer is in store.

Frost on trees predicts a bountiful summer.

Some of the information I found was consistent across more than one site. Other information was unique to one site. I admit I didn’t check all sites, there were many too many.

Don’t blow out the candle to get your wish. When you make it imbue it with positive thoughts.

A handmade candle is a special gift to make a special friend happy. The person who makes the candle should hold her hands over the wax and concentrate on the positive things she wishes the recipient of the finished candle to have–happiness, well-being, prosperity, love. These positive thoughts should continue while pouring the melted wax into the mold. When the candle is finished the maker should hold it in her hands while continuing to think of positive wishes for the recipient.

The candlemaker should tell the recipient of the positive wishes that the candle brings with it that way when he lights the candle he will think of her and the positive things she wishes for him. Sounds like a bonding ritual.

The candle should be lit naturally, that is with a match, not a lighter.

The flame is not to be blown out because you might blow away all the good wishes. Instead, it should be pinched out with moist fingers or with a snuffer.

Candle-makers were supposed to be in a good mood while at their task. That’s where feasting, beer-drinking, singing, and laughing come in. If the candle-maker is in a bad mood the candles will sputter and burn with a dim light. Another example of sympathetic magic.

There is so much candle lore it’s hard to fit into one blog post and still publish it on February second.

Happy Candle Day. dear readers. Be sure to eat, drink, sing, and laugh.

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30th Anniversary of Barricades in the Streets of Riga

In January 1991 the Soviet military attempted to force Latvia back into the USSR. Latvia had declared its renewed independence the previous year. The siege lasted two weeks from January 13 to January 27th.

Copied from the Embassy of Latvia post on Facebook.

Today we pay tribute to the efforts of people in Latvia to protect their newly-regained freedom in 1991. That month, leaders of the USSR in Moscow decided to mobilize security forces to restore Soviet order in the three Baltic countries. Upon realizing this, people of all ages and backgrounds rushed to Riga – they brought trucks, tractors, and heavy equipment to build barricades around government buildings. They spent days outside in the freezing cold of January. The face-off culminated on January 20th when Soviet special forces initiated a gun battle and temporarily seized the Ministry of the Interior. Several people were killed. But the barricades held! Pro-democracy forces prevailed and went on to restore full independence. In honor of these events, today is marked as the Commemoration Day of Defenders of the Barricades in 1991. We thank and honor everyone who stood up for freedom and joined the barricades! 🇱🇻

Riga is 820 years old but Latvia has known freedom for only a fraction of those years.

Welcome Winter Solstice

At dawn in winter, the sun peeks over the right shoulder of Mt. Rainier. Today it begins its journey back north.

Winter Solstice

Winter arrived in the Northern Hemisphere today with a veil of white–fog–rather than a blanket of snow. It’s been so blah outside that the day reminds me of Thomas Hood’s poem, “November,” which I posted in an earlier blog.

Today may be the beginning of winter, but that’s not how it looks like here. This is aphoto from last February.

I looked and looked for a poem to share with you, but found nothing that pleased me. Poets wrote about “bleak December,” breaking boughs, blowing winter winds. Not even Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” conveys what I have in mind. 

For me, the Winter Solstice is a time to celebrate the return of light. We are approaching a time of new beginnings, a time to put behind us the mistakes, sorrows, and bad thoughts of the old year. I turned to my Latvian heritage to find what I was looking for.

In Latvia, this is a time for reflection. A time to look into yourself. It’s a calm, quiet time of year. A time to seek inner peace and to connect with nature. It’s the time of the rebirth of the Sun Goddess. A fire festival. A flaming wheel of straw is rolled down a snowy hill as a symbol of the sun’s journey.

For centuries Latvia has been an agrarian society. As in the other seasons, the fertility of the land and people was essential. Work for the season was over, so there was time for young people to meet, visit, and get acquainted. If a girl went to bed hungry, she was bound to dream of her future groom. Presumably, someone who would be able to ensure that she and their future children would always be fed.

In the olden days, evil spirits were presumed to roam the earth during the darkest time of the year. To scare the evil spirits people dress up in costumes portraying creatures such as cranes, foxes, the devil, etc. The mummers (budēļi) 

roam from house to house, raising a ruckus, the more noise the better. In return, they expect to be served food and drink.

These are only a few of the many traditions and rituals with which our Latvian ancestors welcomed the return of the sun. Soon green growing things will also reawaken.

Some plants don’t go dormant and keep winter from being so bleak.

This is the spirit of revelry and celebration I was looking for. I can watch this video over and over. This is a fine way to welcome the sun and longer days. “Kaladu” is simply a nonsense word like “tra-la-la.

Latvians are a singing and dancing people even in snow at this cold, dark time of year. This video is worth sharing again and again.

Mummers celebrating the arrival of winter.

The woman in the green shawl is wearing a necklace of “barankas.” They’re like a cross between bagels and pretzels. On a string like this is how “barankas” are sold in Latvia. When I visited my relatives there and told my uncle how fondly my mother used to reminisce about gnawing on “barankas” he brought me a string of them the very next day.

Those are sashes the dancers are leaping over. Normally they’re worn with folk costumes, wrapped two or three times around the waist (depending on the girth of the person) and tied in front.

The Second Wave of Deportations

The Baltic deportations of June 14, 1941, were not the end of Soviet terror and oppression. In March of 1949, there was a second, larger deportation. By that time, my parents, three of my uncles were among the Balts who had fled their country to safety in the West. My father’s older sister and her husband were not so fortunate.

My father’s older brother had heard about the new deportations. Fearing that he and his wife would be arrested, he sent his nine-year-old son to stay with his sister. When the boy got to his aunt’s house, the arrest was in process. He ran home through the snow. His family was spared. After Stalin’s death in 1953, my aunt and uncle were able to return to Latvia.

This is a video from Radio Free Europe that tells a little about these events.

https://fb.watch/6djLeX5SX_/

The Deported: 15,424

Today Latvians are commemorating the anniversary of the deportations.

This map belonged to my parents.

Deported by the Soviets from Latvia in one night, the night between June 13 and June 14, 1941. There was no due process, not really, not when you consider that the government of Latvia at the time had not been democratically elected, but was forced on it by the Soviets.

Among those loaded onto cattle cars and shipped to Siberia were men, women, and children, some as young as one.

What crime could a one-year-old child have committed? Being born to parents who were considered enemies of the people. Guilt by association. These enemies were government officials, educators, journalists, cultural figures, anyone who had the prominence and respect to influence others to oppose the Soviet regime. It didn’t matter whether they had done so or not. Their positions in society meant that the possibility existed. Preventive arrests for things people might do.

The link I’ve included is to an interactive map provided by the National Library of Latvia, which makes it possible to look up the deportations from any town or civil parish. Click on the green dot by a town’s name and scroll through the list of names to look for relatives and friends.

I searched for names on the list for my mother’s hometown, Limbaži. I didn’t find the names of any relatives on the list of sixty-six deportees, but I found the name of my mother’s high school sweetheart. He was twenty-four when he was sent to Siberia. Eventually, I don’t know how many years later he was able to walk back home. He lived long enough to see Latvia regain its freedom, but died not much later.

I don’t know how my maternal grandfather escaped being arrested. He was the deputy mayor of his hometown and the editor of the local newspaper. Just the sort of person who’d be most likely to be rounded up. It was probably sheer luck. The arrests and deportations were pretty much a hit-or-miss thing. The NKVD had such a long list of people to arrest that if an individual happened not to be at home when agents came knocking in the middle of the night, they went on to the next name on their list and never returned.

Town Hall

My father’s hometown, Alūksne had 167 victims. None of my relatives appeared on that list, either. But my father’s older sister and her husband were arrested and sent to Siberia in the second wave of deportations in 1949. They, too, managed to return, probably after Stalin’s death in 1953.

Lake Alūksne

Some of my mother’s relatives lived in the capital, Rīga. I didn’t look for them. The number of deportees from Rīga was more than four thousand. My mother’s family was practically a tribe. Great-granddad was married three times; my mother had cousins even she couldn’t keep track of. I don’t know what towns they might have lived in in 1941. I don’t know how many if any of them were deported. People don’t talk about such things. The memories are too terrible.

If you’re a Latvian reading this post and want to look up a relative, don’t worry if you can’t read the language. It’s not necessary. You just have to be able to recognize the name of a person or place. Pagasts means civil parish; their names are included on the list. 

https://deportetie.kartes.lv/lv/c___56.967441-24.256683-8?fbclid=IwAR06QFJ7LY339O0NBMM-AxTeQT_D1AbW8E7k37y2l86ZNhCO4G-PefNh9aA