Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Letters from Latvia - Nica 17th of September 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.

This the 6th letter in the series, is a little unique from the other letter so far in that it appears to be a response to a letter Lidija (Janis's new and somewhat controversial wife) wrote to Kate (Janis' sister). Most of the letter is about this relationship with a little bit at the end addressing the day to day life in Nica at the time.

I just had a look at the original letter associated with this translation and it is a marvel that the very small writing was legible! No doubt being able to zoom in on the digitised copies played a crucial role in their translation. For more information on having your old Latvian documents translated please click HERE


17.9.47, at Nica
My dear brother and dear sister-in-law!

Yesterday, on the day of our threshing party, we received a letter from you, my brother’s life partner. Every day we wait to receive letter, for another one to come from you, our dear ones far away. That is perhaps what we wait for so very much,  now that you, our dear Janis, have had a change in your life, you have found yourself a life partner. And yesterday we were happily surprised by the letter written by Lidija alone. It is good that you have thought to do that. Since we are now members of one family all together, but God has destined us to still be living apart,  we must try ourselves to somehow strengthen the new bonds, by writing even a few lines. So yesterday your letter, our dear Lidija, left me with such a feeling.   I was convinced that my sister-in-law would be Vera. Yes, that was definitely to be expected, but we actually wished, that that would not happen.   I don’t know, Janis, if you knew that or not, because we did not want to oppose your wishes. We thought, Janis, that you would not have an easy life with Vera. She wanted everything to happen as she wished. And mum says that perhaps this now is really your happiness  and that for Lidija, after a hard life with the first husband , God has granted  a happier life, that you have earned it. And in my opinion Janis will be a good husband. That is why Vera wanted Janis, and maybe also because of our farm. But one thing I really can’t understand is whether Vera was truly without love and whether she really forced and influenced Janis  in everything. But I do know that in her love there were many dark threads which could have made your life with Vera bitter, Janis. And I really can’t believe that she wanted you for a husband  out of love only  and that you could love her  with no doubt or bitterness. I know you had your differences of opinion. And we really quietly hoped that on returning home Janis would have become free of her influence or that he might even marry while away. And now that has happened, but don’t be angry that we are a bit concerned that your wife is so much older than you. We are not angry but we are afraid that this might cause tears and pain later on both sides.  But we don’t want to believe that you would have joined your lives together without considering everything.  Pure and true love stands above everything, it is the only thing that can keep two people happy to the end of their lives. May God grant you that! Lidija, tell us something about yourself sometime and I would like to ask for a family photo of you, if not an individual one.  We  would be very please  and interested to see it. If you can, my dear ones, please send it. God only knows how much longer we must live apart. Last night we celebrated the end of the threshing, the Pavils’ lad played, we danced a bit, but we had pain in our hearts too, how much happier we would be if you, Janis, were with us and you too, Lidija, and your son with  you. Then we would be infinitely happier. Soon we will start to lift the potatoes, we will manage the work. Our choir went to Ventspils to sing. I will never forget the trip through Kurzeme. So live well and happily, our dear ones. Your family.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Letters From Latvia - Nica 2nd of September 1947

Before I comment on the next letter in the series, I would like to thank those of you who commented on the posts and those who have contacted me on twitter and google+. I really appreciate the positive feedback I have been getting! At this stage most of it has been about this series of letters which makes the hole process of having them translated and publishing them here seem even more worthwhile.

If you have any latvian documents that you wish to have translated I can recommend the very helpful lady who is translating these letters for me. Not only has she translated the letters but she has also provided me with invaluable contextual backgrounds to many of them. For further enquiries please type the following address into you email client (I have posted the address as an image in order to reduce spam):




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.

This is the fifth letter in the series. There are quite a few themes covered in this letter. I sometimes forget  how patriotic my father and (as these letters show) my aunty were. Patriotism seems to fly under the conscious mind and it is often taken for granted that we love our country and/ or our ancestral land. I sometimes wonder if modern Latvians are so patriotic.

This letter also alludes to some of the hardships in Germany after the war. Of course we have to guess what was in Janis' letters to his sister Kate but we know from history that there was mass unemployment and malnutrition in Germany, at least partially due to the (understandable) industrial disarmament enforced by the allies at the time. Also a sign of the times is the 'letter counting'. This is a sign of the relatively unreliable postal service at the time which necessitated the writer stipulating which letter she was responding to in case another, earlier letter had been lost or delayed.

On a personal note, it is interesting to see just how much my aunty and I have in common even though we never met. Though, as a young adult she was unusually aware of her "childish inclinations and wishes", something that at my age I am only starting to become aware of.


Nica, 2.9.47Our dear Janis!
We received a letter from you again yesterday, which we had been waiting for so much and which gave us great joy again. So you are still in your old place and do not intend to look for new homeland, as others are apparently doing. But for a Latvian outside Latvia’s borders to look for a “homeland”, doesn’t that go against the heart of every Latvian? This must surely be just talk, and not for real. And in my opinion the heart of every Latvian will sooner or later call him back to his real homeland, Latvia. You might look for a living here or there, but a homeland? I am glad, brother, that you are standing firm in your heart against such thoughts, and know that I believe above everything in your true Latvian heart. -  Yes, you are not able to make full use of the best years of your life now and far from your homeland you have to carry the burden of  being in a foreign place and partly also of want. Such is the fate of our small Latvian nation – to live scattered throughout the world. We are faring incomparably better here, we are in our own country, each in our own home and we can shape our own lives. But thoughts of you, our countrymen, the strong young Latvian generation far away, won’t let us have peace in our hearts and we live in constant hope that they will be able to return to us – our sons to our country. Of course we, as well as you, have unshakeable hope that someday you will all return home and that then we will live a brighter, happier life. We are all waiting for you. Every family is preparing something for you, for your return. We have made a good   currant wine, which we will save for you. Although things are harder for us without you, we manage to do everything on the farm and we are happy, that we can cope and are strong. The threshing is starting here now. The hum of the threshing machine is a farewell song to a sunny summer. Yellow  dahlias  are flowering and many coloured asters, the apples are ripening. Yesterday we were at the Kaupelis’ to help with the threshing. Today I pickled the cucumbers, they grew well this year. Mum is shearing the sheep. Father has gone to the mill. – And dear brother, your suspicions of the man who is sitting next to me in the photo are not correct. He is our pastor, and we invited him because he knows a lot of people. You should have known that. But I really would not want a husband like him – old and fat. I feel (?) that you thought such a thing of me but it is funny too. I only hope that this letter will reach you quickly, so that you are not under such a wrong impression any longer. I can’t even imagine getting married yet. I still have quiet childish inclinatons and wishes. I still haven’t given up thoughts of studying, schooling, and still want to be young and free,   So, brother, your little sister doesn’t yet want.or  intend to get married, but to get engaged to an old gentleman with a big stomach and grey hair, that is not possible for me. But dear Janis, I will hold on to your wishes and advice quietly, until such a time when they might really be appropriate. But I am sorry, that you have perhaps been misled. But now that is cleared up. After the third letter we sent cards for you birthday and your Osvalds namesday and a letter on 12/7 with confirmation photos, after that on 30/8 and now today. In the letter which we (?) was also a letter for Janis from the Kaupelis. You might receive it later. From you 3 letters, 3 cards. I will be  waiting eagerly and once again, may God help you. Holding you in our hearts, mum dad, grandma and I, Kate.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Letters From Latvia - Nica 30 August 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.

This is the fourth letter in the series. In the last letter Janis' sister and mother seemed a little upset with Janis' decision to marry while away from home - and while his girlfriend was waiting for him to return from war. This letter is quite brief, no new revelations, however the second half contains some information about life on the farm during the early years of the occupation.

When I read these letters, I sometimes wonder how much of them to publish on the internet. I'm not certain how Janis would feel about these private letters being made public. The last letter in particular seemed quite personal. This letter might not contain a lot of interesting information.  Up until now I have decided to publish everything. It is hard to know how important some of the minor details could be in piecing together some of the 'bigger picture'. There were probably thousands of Latvians in a similar position to Janis, and maybe tens or hundreds of thousands who were farmers during the occupation. In the end, it is the details that made my family -and Latvia - unique. To that end, I believe that the positives outweigh any negatives and it is important to publish as much as possible.

Nica 30 August 1947

Greetings, our dear, dear Janis!
Dear Janis, we have not written to you for a long time – we sent the last greeting cards for your birthday and your second namesday. The last thing we have received from you was the Janu day greeting.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Life after 50 years in Latvia: Part 2


Note: This is part two of a two part series, to view the first part click HERE

The following is from a speech which Janis CIRKSIS delivered detailing his experience as a Latvian returning home after 50 years of Soviet occupation. It was written in around 1997 so most likely a lot has changed since then. It is a deeply personal account of his experience and by no means is it intended to be indicative of a more general experience. Having said that, it does express many of the daily struggles of Latvians as they tried to reestablish their independence after 50 years of occupation.

The original document is written in a script font and thus I have had to transcribe it manually.  In order to publish something this week, I have decided to break it (arbitrarily) into 2 halves. As per usual, I would love to hear from you. In particular How do you think life in Latvia has changed since 1997?


Life after 50 years in Latvia: Part 2

One of my younger day lady friends, a retired schoolteacher, has suffered a stroke. She is unable to converse, cannot walk, and is restricted to bed in a place which use to be the main general hospital in Liepaja. Today these premises are in a deplorable condition. The care and medical attention in the ward where my friend is situated is tragically deficient. In comparison, living conditions of the old Latvian people in out Retirement Village in Melbourne would be considered by those in Latvia as “a paradise on Earth”.