Sunday, 24 March 2013

Letters from Latvia

Janis CIRKSIS was a highly organised person. Thankfully, he was also a little bit of a hoarder. Along with all of the photos and other documents that he kept were several hundred letters from Latvia spanning from 1947 until the mid 1970s, all neatly arranged in chronological order in a file folder and well preserved.

A couple of months ago, I finished scanning all of these documents to PDF and I began making enquiries about having some of them translated.  A few weeks ago I received a translated copy of the first letter my father received from his family after WWII. I have always thought that these letters would contain invaluable details about  day to day life under Soviet occupation. What I hadn't expected was the amount of subtle information that speaks volumes - but that is for another post.

The translation has also finally revealed the author of the letters! Initially, because my grandmother and my aunt both had the same first and last names, I was unable to determine who had written the letters. Now I know that the first letter at least was from my aunt Katrine CIRKSIS. And here it is:


Our warmest greetings to you, our dear Janis!
You are so far from us, and yet we received a letter from you yesterday. We all cried while reading it. Such emotional joy, held-back pain, all together. The letter from you gave us such comforting joy, it seems to us now that we can more surely believe in life and face life with more cheerful courage. Even though you are so far from us, we now have such a sure feeling that family ties have not been severed. Although you yourself are not here, we feel that your thoughts often reside here. Mother and I feel that when we are thinking of you, then it seems that your thoughts too are close, hovering over your native fields.
The author of this letter Katrine CIRKSIS 
The news that you are alive and well we received from Valdis about the end of August. He came to us himself and told us about you. We had no doubt that you were alive, but still we were tormented by not knowing. Valdis and Peteris Kers  (Keris?) are now working in Riga, they come to Nica on Sundays. – The last letter from you we had received in April 1945, so this news is precious. It is now three years since we last met, but we still believe that the time will come for you to make your way here to the place of your birth, that we do not doubt.
Fate has destined us to endure much, but not as much as you, we think. Many young men have returned from Russia.
We are all fit and well, I can say that that is almost completely true even for myself. We returned home right after the capitulation. The buildings were all as they had been, only the threshing barn was destroyed and the inside of the granary.   Other people are in much worse circumstances. Of all the old animals, only Dukats is left. There is also a large German horse. The Pirtnieks gave us a cow. We are raising two calves and we have some pigs and sheep. We also saved all the clothes, yours and others. Everything had grown a good bit. So life is fast taking shape anew, we are just waiting to see both sons return home. Mother had jumpers knitted for all three, father and you two. Now we are weaving cloth as well. We manage to cope with the work. Father is strong. I planted cherries last spring at the end of the house, on the eastern side. It seemed a pity to let the seedlings perish. So we do the jobs that are fitted for each time of the year. But when you return, everything will go differently!
Give their parents’ love  to your cousin Janis if you can, to our neighbour Valdis from the estate. Both families are living at home and are safe and well. Might you know something about Jekabs Jurka (?). They know nothing about their son. I will be confirmed this Whitsunday, so my dear brother, you think of me too on that day. Sincere best wishes from the Sturmanis women (Vera is studying to be a teacher), the Pirtnieks, the Kaupelis, the Strautnieks. Our dear Janis far away! Stay well and strong, we will all meet again happily sometime!  The warmest, warmest greetings from us all –mother, grandmother, father and Kate!  The warmest, warmest greetings  from mammucite. (possibly other grandmother?)

If you need help translating Latvian documents, leave a comment below and I will arrange to pass your details on. Or you can contact me via twitter @cirksis