Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Letters From Latvia - Nica 12 July 1947

Janis CIRKSIS was a displaced person (DP) after the Soviet union annexed Latvia and the Baltic states during WWII. This is a continuation in the series of letters that he received from his homeland, translated into English. To see the other letters in the series click HERE.

In this, the third letter in what promises to be quite a long series of posts Katrine talks about the home land. The culture, the festivals but significantly, the land itself. It is quite clear that the family has a strong connection with the land and nature, something that has been somewhat lost in modern times. I am reminded that the indigenous Australians believed that the land owned them (as apposed to people owning the land). I imagine that this belief would not have been totally foreign to Latvians up until the 1950s.

A sincere greeting from your homeland to you, Janis, in foreign parts!
Thank you so much, dear brother, for your good wishes  on my confirmation day, at which time we were apart, but in our thoughts we were together. Also for the Whitsunday greeting from the whole of what is now your family the most sincere thanks from us all.
In your few lines you again sent us happy news.
We wrote our last letter after Jani, and now after cleaning the house, I have a quiet moment in which my thoughts again fly to you, your life partner and her son, who are now your most real and best friends and with whom you can perhaps find  the homeliness of family in a strange place, so that your life is easier until you return to your homeland. We know that you are able to live a more or less satisfactory life, it is good that that is so and you are safe and well, but still that is not real life, in a foreign place, without your real home, without your homeland, and the road that in your thoughts will lead you back to the dear land of your childhood.   The only land in which you can be at home, and like an unmovable tree, which does not have to submit to the fury of winds, but which can grow and flourish and bring blessings to itself and humanity. You are not here in our midst, and yet you exist, live, work and fill your life with something until you can at last be in your real place, in your land. May God grant that your life there does not seem too empty and painful and that it actually is not so. May you as a living person be able to live a humane life and may you keep in health and strength and joy of living and faith in life. The only good thing that we can do for you is to fervently wish you this and to believe that it could be so. The day will come when after a long time of separation and absence, you will come home again, but when we meet we will not be the same as we were when we parted. We will have experienced and been through a lot and learned a lot and we will look at one another as If we had become strange and unfamiliar to each other but then we will be able celebrate your return and the beginning of a new, permanent life in which we will again feel like loving members of one family. I have no objection to you bringing back your wife and stepson, we will get to know each other and they will be like family too. If that is the happiness of your life and good fortune, if it cannot be otherwise in your wishes. Mum also says “I am happy as long as he is alive and well and comes home, even if like this.”
Katrine's CIRKSIS in her confirmation dress. 
Hay cutting time has started here now, we have already brought in some loads, the rest has been (?) and a bit still has to be mown. With the machines to cut and collect the hay we can manage easily. We are also all in good health. A hive of bees has settled in our big linden tree, today father carved out a hollow under it and cleared it out, to make more room for the bees and so we can reach to collect the honey in time. Next year, when the bees swarm, then the swarm can be caught into a beehive. So we have acquired bees, like a gift from God. Mum is in Liepaja today. She will bring back a new suit-dress for me, which will have been made for me. We wove the material ourselves in the winter. (PS I am enclosing photos of my confirmation)

Tomorrow Janis Reinis will be wed to Anna Lusens of Halva (?), and Alvina Ratnieks, who was at the Rutins’, to Fran(?) Pelnics. So life is shaped and rolls on. – Anna Kuskis has given the world another little boy – Janis, who was born right on Janu day. Tomorrow I am going to the pharmacist’s (female) sister’s confirmation, she has finished high school this year, will be confirmed in Liepaja and then will come here, to her sister’s, with her guests to celebrate.  I have started to attend the church choir. We will go to Ventspils at the end of July to sing, we have been to  Irvite (?)   But after that I won’t go any more. Half a day gone every Sunday. Enough. – So I am chattering on here all sorts of little bits and pieces, that make up our daily life, our life. Maybe they are for you sounds from your homeland. So I don’t want to limit myself and am relating everything. Last Sunday a group from Barta performed  their  oldtime christening  enactment  which won a prize in Riga in the amateur performance show. Also berry season will start soon. My new plots are yielding a bit already as well. A few raspberries are turning red, the cherries are pale red, and the currants too. We will conserve all the berries, while waiting for you to come home. We will be making wine too, for medicinal purposes. Well, my dear though distant, but so close brother, loving, sincere greetings from mum, dad, grandma and me to you all!  Kate 

If you like reading these letters, or if you know any of the people mentioned in them, why not post a comment below? Or you can message me on twitter @cirksis or Google +. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Letters From Latvia - Nica 27th of June 1947

Janis CIRKSIS was a displaced person (DP) after the Soviet union annexed Latvia and the Baltic states during WWII. This is a continuation in the series of letters that he received from his homeland, translated into English. To see the other letters in the series click HERE

One obvious problem with this series of translations is that we only get half of the story - because I don't have a copy of the letters that Janis sent to Latvia. Perhaps they are out there somewhere but unless someone comes forward with them, I will have to speculate as their content.

It appears that Janis left a girl behind. We often hear of soldiers getting a 'dear john' letter in which their sweetheart has found another man. In this case John (Janis in Latvian) has written to tell his family to tell them he has married while abroad - leaving an awkward situation at home, with his girlfriend still waiting for him. On the bottom of this letter Janis' mother writes a short note, it is quite apparent that this has come as quite a shock to the family, least of all janis' girlfriend.

Also mentioned in the letter is the festival Ligo. Celebrated on the summer solstice, it is one of the most (if not the most) important national holiday in Latvia. You can find more information about Ligo here and here!

Our dear Janis in a distant foreign place,
We have received a letter from you again – a greeting for mother on Mothers’ Day June 21. It was very moving for us and especially for our dear mother. Janis, it is lovely that you can so feel the bright star of your mother’s heart over you in foreign parts, that you feel its light and can keep strong and sure in its light and guidance. And truly our mother has prayed and is praying to God, every morning and evening for you and us all. Her heart wants to stand guard over us. She has prayed for blessings for you, and now that you have started life together with your chosen life partner, she has faith that that too is perhaps a part of the blessing  that she has prayed for for you and will not cease to pray for, for you both, her son and her daughter-in-law. I think she will want to write a few lines herself in this letter. We have come to terms now with the change in your life and accustomed to it and do not feel as if we have been slighted by your actions, because you know what you are doing and you do not have to answer to others for it. In life many bad things are done for which their perpetrators should be ashamed, but we do not think that your choice could be any wrong doing. Vera knows about it now, although we avoid talking about it. All the talking is done by both mothers. But we think that Vera is able to forgive you. It is fate and she is not a mean person. But she is not thinking about getting married at the moment, perhaps she intends to stay unmarried altogether. She comes to see us with her mother and will continue to do so, the same as all this time – so she can show people that she has only been coming here in friendship to me and  for the sake of general good relations. We did not manage to keep the news private though, at least father did not consider it necessary not to tell his relatives and good friends and then why should they stay silent? They say also that Peteris Sapratis and (?) from the Lejnieks have told about it. But never mind, let them know. We consider that you are not to be blamed and maybe Vera “does not want you at all” any more.
So. Live happily with your wife. She might help you to bear the heavy weight of your exile, till you all return to your homeland to start a real life.
Dear brother, I wanted to write to you on Ligo night itself, but that was not possible. Vera came to visit with her friend, her schoolmate Zigrida, her “husband” as she calls her, and who has become our friend as well, because she has been here a number of times. In the evening all of us, including the forester’s Ilze, went to the forest for birch boughs, but on the way back there was terrific rain and thunder several times, so we were soaked. But the rain was warm and only made us laugh, we sang Ligo songs, even though the rain was driving into our mouths. This trip was for us the best part of the whole Ligo festival. We brought home birch and oak branches and wild flowers. We all went to the neighbours’ – to the forester’s place- to celebrate Ligo vakars, but as it still rained and the ground and grass were wet, then to our great regret no celebration was possible. We did not see other people lighting barrels either. But nevertheless the Ligo spirit was in our hearts and in all other houses as well and in all of our Latvian land, when Latvian people prepare for and celebrate our most beautiful and traditional festival, the Ligo festival. Old and young celebrate it. Then the sun gives us more of its light and warmth in our lives and the whole earth in its caress offers to us, its human children, its greatest splendour. Everything is green, ripening, flowering and fragrant. All the little flowers are blooming in the meadows and edges of the fields, the clover fields are in flower, the rye fields are rippling high and over the fields and meadows a vast and fervent Ligo rings from the hearts and mouths of the people. Joy and gratitude for the unchanging beauty of the land and of life, no matter what storms and shadows pass over it and over people’s lives. On that evening, our dear Janis, I wished you all the best from my heart, that you too might feel some joy and happiness, especially on this evening when in your homeland they sing Ligo. Perhaps you thought of the Ligo festivals you celebrated with your friends in your homeland, before we were separated by (?) life.
We all wish you and your wife a happy life together and a swift return to your homeland. And may your son Ilmars also not feel left out. 
With best, best wishes, Kate
PS We have received 3 letters from you and have sent you 2 letters, 3 cards and now this letter.

Dear son and daughter-in-law,
I send greetings to you in distant, foreign parts and wish you God’s blessing in your future life. What you have done was a big shock to me though, for it came unexpectedly, not dreamed of in my mind or my dreams. When we got your first letter, we hadn’t even had time to read it a second time when Vera was advised by telegram, for I know of your real good fortune, that you are alive and well, for all the talk here was about you being alive and well. Then when your second letter came, whatever I might say, it was a great mercy that Vera was not here with us. If we had not been driven out of our home, then of course Vera would have been with us, because that was your wish. And I have fulfilled it all, I did not abandon Vera even though we were refugees, we shared each mouthful, so that you could not reproach me that I did not fulfil your wishes. But now it is very much the opposite It caused me great anxiety, you will know that yourself. For my expectation was to see you come home alone and for maybe half a year not to give you back to the world, but to rejoice over you by myself as over a small child, to look after you and give you a mother’s care, after the perils you have been through. But now you have chosen a life partner for yourself in  foreign parts.  I still wonder every day if that really is your fate. Then once again best, best wishes from mammucite and I wish all three of you the very best and hope to see you come home soon.