Monday, 28 October 2013

Basket of Songs 6

Rudzu pukes - Cornflowers


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 1945It 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 6 in the book is titled: Rudzu pukes- Cornflowers


Cornflower blue is the sky of my country, cornflower blue are my girl's eyes.
Page 5 of Basket of Songs - Brussels Prisoner-of-war camp, December 1945

There are other songs by the same name on Youtube however the lyrics do not match... If you can find a version of this song online anywhere, please post a link below!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Letters from Latvia - Nica 27th of January 1948

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.


This is the 14th Letter in the series. 


Nica, 27.1.48
We greet you with lots of love, Janis, Lidija and Ilmars!

Yesterday we received your letter written on 25.11 with namesday greetings for mum and me and a few days ago, your greeting for Christmas and the New Year. Thank you so very much for these greetings. We had been waiting for some lines from you for quite a while and had almost begun to worry, but we still thought they’d come. And now they have come! The letter written on 25.11 had taken two weeks longer than usual and came later than the greeting written on 9.12. But now we are so very happy again that everything is well with you, as well as it can be in a foreign place. – We sent our last letter to you on Christmas Eve and a greeting at the New Year. Before that on 28.11 and 16.12. It appears that we have received all of each other’s letters up to now and they have not been lost, which is so good. The postman tells us that you, dear Janis, write to us most often of all of the people over there to their relatives at home. Thank you so much for that. It is so good to receive even a line from you, then we know that you are not lost to us and unknown and our minds are then much more at peace. As long as we know that you are well and have enough for the needs of daily life.

Although it is sad to be far away, we can hope and believe with certainty that you will return home and be alright. – Brother dear, don’t feel guilty that you cannot help us. It is not your fault, it is fate, which is making you suffer more than us. I think that we here at home can still be happier than you in exile and so it should sooner be us who feel guilty, that life is being kinder to us than to you. And we can imagine that your Lidija has a lot to reflect on about your fates. And are women not more sensitive to everything than men? May God help you, Lidija, in your work and may it distract you and help you forget, to some extent, but I think that in a foreign place you cannot work with such love as at home. However, work with sick people is good work, isn’t it and it seems to me that it suits you. And while I am at it, I am curious to know what town or hospital you worked in when you were in Latvia? And where do your parents live? So you were happy too, when you received news from your own parents.

Everything is fine here at home, we are all well and pass each day little by little with the ordinary everyday and winter jobs. The weather this winter has been very changeable. Now it snows and freezes, then again there is a snowstorm and then it is thawing again. The last two weeks we have had more serious winter weather with good sleighing conditions and in the daytime minus 4-8⁰C. But now it is gradually starting to thaw again. But maybe it will hold and snow again. Father goes to the forest now for firewood. He did not have to do woodcutting work in the forest, he was assigned as a saw sharpener to other woodcutters and I was spared that work as well. Mum is spinning wool again now, we are preparing to weave cloth, we will also weave towels and a few other things. I am also making up some wearable items of clothing on the sewing machine and doing some mending. I have learnt to make up some simple items of clothing quite well, although it is still not so easy for me. Sometimes I stop working for a while, read a good book, strum the mandolin, which I like to do and am getting better at, although not really good yet. It is a pity that there is no other instrument in our house. Last winter Baris left his small accordion for me to play, which I then strummed quite often, but only without the base of course. I am still singing in the church choir as well.  At Epiphany we choir members arranged our own Christmas celebration at the Pavils’ place, which was really lovely and I will not forget it for a long time. We recited, sang to a set program, and we girls together had provided a nice festive table. After the program we just spent time together. We sang, danced, played games, danced folk dances too and all felt like members of one family. – There are choirs forming in the school too now – men’s and women’s, which might later form into a mixed choir and go to Riga in the summer for the song festival. I have also started to attend, there is a large number of singers. The new men’s choir performed on Sunday already and properly outsang the women. We now want to practice to pay them back. We are learning mostly folk songs, also patriotic songs about the Fatherland, the homeland. If you go out somewhere, life seems brighter, not so grey and dull, more stimulating. – So now I have said everything again that was on my mind.– How did you, our dear ones, spend Christmas? 

With very, very loving greetings, your family at home.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Basket of Songs 5

Lietus Lāses - Raindrops

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 1945It 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 5 in the book is titled: Lietus Lāses - Raindrops

When raindrops knock on your window, that will be like a quiet greeting from me.

Page 5 of Basket of Songs - Brussels Prisoner-of-war camp, December 1945
The renditions of this song found on youtube seem too Jazzy to be likely (contemporary) renditions of this song... If you find a good rendition online somewhere post a link in the comments and I will update this post.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Letters From Latvia - Nica 24th December 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.


A blanket of snow covers the Čirkšis family farm.
Christmas time in Latvia, 1947: The tree decorated is decorated on Christmas eve with candles, the temperature is -15 degrees, the church bells are ringing and snow blankets cover the land. 

Christmas time in Australia 2013: Christmas decorations are on sale in supermarkets starting in October already! No one would dream of attaching a candle to tree outside let alone inside your house and Christmas is characterised by 30 degree + temperatures and total fire bans.

Despite all of the differences, I remember reading Latvian poetry at christmas time, a tradition that connected me (as much as possible for a non-latvian speaker) to the country of my ancestors. I was a good tradition that fell by the wayside over time. Perhaps this year, I will read Latvian poems to my children and maybe one day, we will experience a white christmas in Latvia.... But now I am dreaming so here is the 13th letter in the series:

Nica, 24.12.47
Our dear Janis, Lidija and Ilmars!

It is Christmas Eve and we are missing you and yours most, dear Janis, so we want at least to send you our very loving festive greetings. – We have already finished all the jobs. Mum, grandmother and I have already been to the sauna to bathe, now father and the foresters are there. Everything is clean and tidy, yesterday we decorated the tree, which is a bit more colourful this year. And I have to think about you so much, my dear brother, you are away, you are not in our midst and have spent so many Christmases already far away, in foreign places. We wish that Christmas will be as happy and as bright as possible for you, mummy wishes that for you from her heart and hopes so much that we will be able to celebrate next Christmas all together, much more happily. This year we will stay strong in our hope and be patient, we will send you the most loving greetings and good wishes in our thoughts. Tomorrow night we will light the candles on the tree – then the foresters will come over, they are our nearest neighbours. We will be with you in our thoughts and I will try to imagine that you are in our midst even for a moment….

The church bells are ringing – they are ringing in the Christmas Eve. It is so lovely and festive. I have to go to the church tonight to sing, our choir will sing at the service. Nature too is clad as for a festival, in a white coat of snow. The road is good for a sleigh ride. The cold at night at about -15⁰C, in the day the cold eases up and then there is a snowstorm, at the moment the weather is fine.

Otherwise we are alright. We are working and living as of old, all just as before. – Here in the Soviet land we have new money, more valuable. The prices for farmers’ produce are not fixed. There is a lot of produce at the market, the farmers go to the market at Christmas to trade and to buy clothes. -  Our very, very best wishes to you, our dear Janis, Lidija and Ilmars and have a happy, bright Christmas! We will be with you in our thoughts! 

Mummy, grandma, dad and Kate.

It's a little early in the year but if you have a Latvian Christmas tradition or story post it below!

Monday, 14 October 2013

Basket of Songs 4

Mirdzot šķēpiem - Gleaming Spears

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 1945It 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 4 in the book is titled: Mirdzot šķēpiem - Gleaming Spears


Latvian Riflemen enter a town, the girls’ eyes gleam, next morning they go to battle, and the girls then weep and tend the graves.
Page 4 of Basket of Songs - Brussels Prisoner-of-war camp, December 1945
The Latvian Riflemen are renowned for their valour in WWI. Largely they fought on the Communist side of the war however they were really fighting against the German Barons in the hopes of a free and equitable Latvia - little did they know what Russia had in store for them. A brief history of the Latvian Riflemen can be found at the Latvian History Wordpress page.

A rendition of this song can be found on Youtube:



Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Letters From Latvia - Nica 16th of December 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.


The 12th instalment of the Letters from Latvia series is a little soapy. It deals mostly with Janis' breakup with Vera (the girl at home) and his decision to marry Lidija. This appears to be a little less scandalous now that Janis has apparently explained the circumstances of their breakup. 

The themes to the letter are interesting but even more interesting to me is the subtext. If we look at this letter, and the other letters more broadly we may notice that Katrine's language is deeply philosophical and somewhat poetic. I can't help but think that the original Lativan would be even more so.


Sincere greetings to you, our dear Janis, Lidija and Ilmars!

Dear Janis, we recently received your letter written on 3.11, which was so long, you told us so much about yourself and so I was so very, very happy when we received one from you again. Some such explanation, our dear Janis, we would have been happy to receive from you sooner. Everything that you say about your first love, about being disappointed in it and that you had already broken up with Vera when you left, lifted a weight from the heart, as if lifting some guilt from you. Dear brother, I know that you were already kind of “disappointed” in Vera, but I did not know it all nor that you had already broken up. I know and understand how it is in the teenage years when a young person “searches on earth for that which does not exist on earth”. It seems to me that it is not exactly due to not knowing, not understanding life, but more because then you really don’t want to believe that the things we aspire to, that we dream about, might not happen, not be fulfilled. Then adult life seems like something that can grant everything. For me it was not in matters of the heart, but in the ordinary course of life. Home life seemed to me so empty, silly, bad and everything, and in my faith in goodness I imagined that the good and noble things, which I saw in my mind, existed only somewhere else, and I wanted to be there and I tormented myself with these delusions. Now I could almost laugh about it, for I have almost forgotten those thoughts and I wonder how could I not see the reality of life. People are the same everywhere. Good and evil are found everywhere. And no one, it seems to me now, can be completely bad or good. Reading about your disappointment because of your ideals, what I just told you comes to my mind, which was something similar to your disappointment that happened to me in those years and I can completely understand you, my dear brother. Now we have both grown older and become a bit wiser. You have found your real, human earthly love in your dear life partner Lidija and I no longer make my soul flee or shrink in front of everything that is around me and live in non-existent far places but am learning to experience life as it really is, to experience it as deeply as possible and that is where the real joy of life is to be found, life’s meaning and reality and beauty and fulfilment. I know what it is to love, even though I have not yet loved, or found my real destiny. I don’t like to just trifle. You can have friendship, but once there is talk of love – then it is all over. So I am telling you this, dear brother, so that you and Lidija will know something about me too, we are so far apart that we can only know about each other through what we tell each other, or what we can tell from photographs. Dear Lidija, I am sorry that I have caused you a bit of pain, but I could not do otherwise than to write that. I couldn’t know you well enough yet, to think that I was wrong. I seemed as if you had sort of taken away all Janis’ rights even to speak about his own heart and that could be hurtful us too. That is why it is so good that you have now written everything yourself, which is what I wanted to suggest by what I wrote. So now our doubts have gone and we believe much more in your life’s happiness together. We believe and it is much easier. Don’t fear, Lidija, that we might scorn you. No, we could never do that, when you are Janis’ life’s happiness. I hope and believe that we can all have a harmony that will not stand in the way of your happiness together but will add to it. We are not the kind of people that like to be on bad terms with others.

We celebrated cousin Anna’s wedding very nicely, and are gradually preparing for Christmas. How happily will you celebrate it? …We will at least be together in spirit, in one Homeland. – Live well! With very loving greetings to you all - your family at home.


PS Old Mrs Straupenieks has asked us to ask about Valdis.She has not received any letters for a really long time.___  
As always, I welcome your comments below!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Basket of Songs 3

Laša kundze - Mrs Salmon

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 1945It 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 3 in the book is titled: Laša kundze -Mrs Salmon. It is a humorous song.


Great excitement in the deep because the eel is going to marry the salmon.


Page 3 of Basket of Songs - Brussels Prisoner-of-war camp, December 1945.


A rendition of this song can be found on Youtube: