Monday, 30 September 2013

Basket of Songs 2

Neskumsti meitene - Don't be sad, girl.

In this series, I have been posting pages from a hand written song book left to me by my father.  The book is titled Bakset of Songs: Let our Songs Ring out, Brussels Prisoner-of-War Camp December 1945. It is also labeled with my father's initials J Č. Click on the following link : Basket of Songs to view the rest of the series.

Ilze, who has been doing an incredible job of translating the Letters from Latvia series has been kind enough to provide a translation of the song titles and a summary of the themes involved. The songs individually over the coming weeks and where I can, I will link to a performance of the melody. At this time, I won't be posting full translations for most of these songs -the Leters from Lativa series will be taking priority.

Song 2 in the book is titled: Neskumsti meitene - Don't be sad, girl.

Don’t be sad, girl, that I have to go away. Remember our times together. If you are feeling sad, go to our special place and you will hear my voice, which will not let you be sad.
Page 2 of Basket of Songs - Brussels Prisoner-of-war camp, December 1945.

A rendition of this song can be found on youtube:

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Basket of Songs

Let our Songs Ring Out!


Brussels Prisoner-of-War Camp
December 1945

In this series, I will be posting pages from a hand written song book left to me by my father. Actually I never knew it existed until he died so I never had to opportunity to hear many of these songs. Ilze, who has been doing an incredible job of translating the Letters from Latvia has been kind enough to provide a translation of the song titles and a summary of the themes involved.

Music has always been an important part of Latvian culture. I say it a lot and it is mentioned in may of the letters my father received from Latvia but it really can't be overstated. I did a quick google search and I was pleased to find that this isn't the only songbook to survive the post WWII POW camps. has an introduction to the Zedelgem POW camp here and they have preserved another Latvian Songbook here

I will be posting the songs individually and where I can I will try to post a link to a performance of the song. Some of them are popular songs about love and the homeland, others are less well known soldier's songs, at least one appears to be unique to the camp. At this time, I won't be posting full translations for most of these songs -the Leters from Lativa series will be taking priority. If I happen to find a translation online however, I may post a link to it...

The first page is the cover:
The front cover of "Basket of Songs" handwritten by my father at the POW camp in Zedelghem, December 1945

The first song in the book is titled "New Year 1946", it was written about the hardships endured by the Latvians at the Zedelghem POW camp in Belgium where Latvian soldiers were held by the Western Allies. The song is hopeful for a better new year. This would appear to be a unique song and I wonder if anyone has sung it since new years 1946...

Song 1: 1946. gads Jaunais gads - New Year 1946
As per usual, please feel free to post comments below. If you know of any recordings of this song, let me know!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Letters From Latvia - Nica 28th of November 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.

For more information on Latvian translations please see the Latvian Translations page.

Just a quick post today to keep the letters coming. Again, in this letter are many names of the people who lived near my grandparent's farm in Latvia at the time. It could prove useful to others searching for their family origins. 

Of particular note to me personally, is the mention of Peteris CIRKSIS by my grandmother Katrine CIRKSIS (she shared her name with her daughter, Janis' sister). It is difficult to tell at this point if she has been informed of Peteris' fate however it appears that there is still hope that he is still alive. She also mentions a lighthouse which may turn out to be the final resting place of Peteris. For more information on Peteris CIRKSIS and his story as I know it see my post on Who is Peteris CIRKSIS?

The Family home in Nica during winter.
Sincere greetings, our dear Janis and Lidija.
 About a week ago we received your letter, in which Lidija wrote as well, and the photo of you two together, about all of which we were again very happy in our hearts. We can then picture you much better and your life far away. – Lidija, you have doubts about the future, whether we will want you as a member of our family, whether we will like you. For myself I can say already that I really like you and if you are dear and pleasing to Janis and you both get on well together and have no doubts in the future, then there is nothing else for us to say and we can only be happy about it. If Janis is happy, then we are even happier and we have no reason or wish to bear any malice towards you, dear Lidija, and to think of you as a stranger. I hope that this will reassure you both once again. Our mother would also like to write something to you, which we will enclose. Life here at home goes on as usual in a regular work rhythm, the autumn jobs are gradually giving way to the indoor winter jobs, although the real winter has not started yet. We did go to Liepaja on the sleigh once though, but past the Krumi dune there was not much snow left. On the way there in the morning, when there was frost, we got there very well, marvellously, but on the way home as far as Bernati at a walking pace only. After that, by Katrina’s day, the snow had melted completely and there was rain but now there has been a bit of snow again and the daytime temperature is around 0⁰ C. There are dark snow clouds along the sea, if it snowed we could go to cousin Anna Zutis’ wedding tomorrow by sleigh. She will be married tomorrow to a Rudis Puris from Otanki, he has his own small farm. So you see here in old Nica many couples are again joining their hands for a lifelong commitment. We’ve got two weddings to go to in one month. And, dear Janis, we also celebrated Katrina’s day on Monday night. We ourselves have been invited out so often and attended so many celebrations of our friends and neighbours that we could not do otherwise, it would have been shameful if we had not invited people to our place in return. And generally speaking everyone really celebrates their “special occasions” hard these days. This is something similar to what Mum talks about – the “dance parties” of her youth during the First Wold War. And on such evenings there is much more closeness and comradeship than at official events, which is good for me and for everyone now. The forester.couple came, the Pavils couple, Kate Murens, Valdis, the pharmacist with her husband, Peteris Kaupelis, Zanis Jurmalis, also Peteris Melveris had come home on leave after six years in Narva and so we invited him. Vera and Zigrida came too. So we sang and danced at bit, musician - Janis Pavils, who is a farmhand there. Yes, we are living well here in our country, we try and have a good time, but can you do so, in a foreign place? I wish that once and for all the burden was lifted from you and you could return to us – to our beloved Homeland! May God help you all! For now, with a sincere, loving greeting! - your family at home.

(Next part in Janis’ mother’s writing)

Greetings from mammucite to you in distant exile. May the hand of God guide you in the future as it has up to now, for I feel that I have not prayed to God in vain even though I knew nothing about you  and I don’t know anything about dear Peteris, but still a quiet voice in my heart said that they will be alive for you. And truly I was picking berries when Anna Ruskis came around and said that you are alive. And I can’t describe it to you, my whole body started to tremble and the tears started to flow, for a great joy had happened to me and I am still hoping for such great mercy from God for dear Peteris. I don’t know if I will be around to experience that or not. I cannot yet believe that he is dead. I received the news that they are digging out by the lighthouse and I should go there, but I had to fall on my knees and pray to God so hard that the last words that pass my lips are God stand by him today and in my dreams I am always finding three little things, like my three children. So I will tell you how it was about Katrina’s day, for there would be no joy in my heart for it without you two but you know, dear son, how Katrina was when you were here on leave. On fleeing from home she said no matter if we lose the home as long as health is alright and now she sings in the choir, goes to namesday parties, so I invited her friends over to have a good time, because I was convinced that that was the best medicine for her health. So, dear son, lead your present life in your own way, if you are well, I will be even better, I will be alright as long as I live I just worry that I might live to see unpleasantness between you and may God grant that you live your life quietly and peacefully. I had a free day today so I have told you a bit about the burdens on my heart. When you come home we will talk for 7 days without stopping. I embrace you in my arms with so much love.
As per usual, if you know any of the people mentioned in this post or if you just want to talk about live in Latvia during the Nazi or Soviet occupations please post a comment below. I will be glad to hear from you.