Today Latvians are commemorating the anniversary of the deportations.
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.
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.
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.