Sunday, 27 July 2014

Letters from Latvia - Nica 4th of May 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 15th Letter in the series. 

Nica, 4.5.48
A loving and sincere greeting to you far away!
Our dear Janis, we received your letter on 30.2 and that was a great joy to us again, for we had not received any news from you for so long, for two and a half months. We wondered if you had moved and were not writing because of that, or if something bad had happened to you. I wrote my last letter in the middle of March and would have liked to write again in April, but I decided to wait in case your address had changed. But we were so happy again now, for on receiving your letter we knew that things are the same, and happy that you have a better job and that you can study as well and get such good experience. So that you will have been able to achieve something during the time you are away, which could be useful for the whole of the rest of your life. We are also glad that your food situation is not too difficult, which is the main thing. I myself was happy to learn that you have become a silversmith and can make nice Latvian jewellery. Those things are so nice and I have been thinking of trying to order one of those interesting brooches with dangles which we are occasionally starting to see here, but I will be patient and wait till you return home and can make one for me yourself. I would like that much more. We also rejoiced to learn that you are making your own gardens there. So you have each got something like a small farm there, your own property, which is something to hold on to in exile and while working there, it would seem like the work that you did in your homeland, at home. I hope everything grows well for you there, it would be a help with food after all and grown with your own hands. 
Are there our own Latvian children living in the kindergarten where my sister-in-law Lidija is working, or are there all sorts of children? So you each have your own employment, and your son Ilmars wants to start learning a trade. In a foreign place, where you don’t own anything, you have to study and use your abilities to provide for your existence by the work of your own hands and you are making use of every opportunity to learn something. We wish you all the greatest success from our hearts in your work and your achievements! And you have been able to celebrate Easter properly too, with painted eggs and surprise gifts for each other. -  We celebrated it well too, quietly. On the first, the Sunday, we went to church, where I am still singing in the choir and intend to continue doing so. We usually exchange gifts at each festival with our neighbours, the forester family, with whom we get on well and whose children, little Ilze and Andrejs, are both little rascals but keen students and good friends to me. I have ten or so new books, some of which are really beautiful and worthwhile. 
The real spring has started now here at home. The grass and the rye fields are bright green, so too the berry bushes and the birch tree by the barn, although the birches in the forest are still in bud only. Father has already sowed all the fields. We have only got to sow the vegetables still and plant the potatoes, and take out the manure. We are going to plant the first potatoes this afternoon. 
Mum was still weaving, mending socks, chopping up the branches of the berry bushes again, that I had sawn off in the garden. I have also planted 26 new cherry trees and 8 plum trees behind the barn at the edges of the ditches, we will be able to plant apple trees in the middle of the plots. It looks like they will all grow well, also the ones planted in the previous two springs, along the roadside and at the end of the house. Today I was hoeing the strawberries, I might be able to finish once we have planted the early potatoes. Mum and Dad are having a nap after lunch, and I am quickly writing you some little bits of news from your home. I have also already dug over the flower garden and rearranged it, I sowed the summer flowers yesterday. The bleeding hearts, tulips and peonies already have visible buds. Inside the house, on window boxes which I put outside during the day, some tomato seedlings which old Meijus brought me are growing strongly. He is still the caretaker at the school. This Whitsunday I think you graduates of the technical college had arranged to meet at the school building, which is still active, but how many of you former members will meet there? Mum ran into Murnieks’ mother in Liepaja and she asked to give you greetings from her son, who is in Narva. Do you know anything about Horsts now or not? – I am enclosing photos of mum, dad and myself, although my hair is not tidy, for I had left my comb in the pocket of my coat. I had the idea of having some photos taken, and we are sending these three newest ones, such as they are. Best wishes from us, Lidija, Ilmars, and all our love to you yourself from us all. 
PS I will write when we receive a letter from you again, but I think that could be a bit more often. Though the postman told us during a friendly chat that you write most often. They are both our own people. 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Letters from Latvia - Nica 17th of March 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. 

Katrine ČIRKŠIS, my grandmother.

In this letter two people are mentioned that I will have to dedicate a post to eventually: My grandmother Katrine ČIRKŠIS and her mother Maiga LAPIŅŠ. I don't know a lot about Maiga at the moment but if she was anything like her daughter or granddaughter, I have no doubt that there will be stories of her out there.

Nica, 17.3.48
Our dear Janis in a foreign country! 
We send you loving greetings from your quiet birthplace! 
We received the last letter from you about a month ago, to which we then replied straight away. Now we are again waiting for a letter from you and I’m sure it will come, but every day, even if the postman has brought a letter from you the evening before, we quickly look between the pages of the newspaper, to see if there is a letter from you. …. But of course we don’t live so close and your situation is not so normal that we might correspond too often. Other families from over your way have not received even a line, they know only indirectly that they are alive and where they are. There are also still those who don’t know anything about their sons, where they are and if they are alive and they wait, and hope, and doubt. So we can be happy that we are among the lucky ones that receive lines written by your own hand fairly often. So is there something bad in that for us? – I will write once a month from now on. The last letters I wrote were on 27.1 and 19.2 and now this one, the latest. Although there is nothing we can do to help you, my dear brother, with a letter we can send you in a faraway foreign place a bit of the warmth of our love, which we have for you, our son and brother, for whom fate has decreed such a long exile and the hardship of that, the separation of a hot heart from its homeland. Even though our letters cannot give you any material benefit, you have to bear that and struggle for it on your own, but at least they can maintain a bond with your homeland, with everything old and past, that is connected to your free childhood and youth and that might give you a bit of joy, strength and maybe energy for life in exile. And your mother’s heart prays most fervently that God stand by you, protect you and lead you back home one day. And always at church in the resounding quiet there, prayers are also said about those of you who are far away and I am almost certain that it is then that every Latvian heart prays most fervently and most sincerely. 
Here at home we can sense that the new summer will be here soon, the cold and the darkness will recede again and leave room for the warmth and brightness of the sun, which will make everything shoot anew, grow, blossom and be fragrant and bear ripening fruit, as a blessing and a joy for  humanity. The roads had thawed completely already, and the highest ones dried out as well, the sun was smiling so warmly and lovingly, that you could, you wanted, to stand in the sun at lunchtime and surrender to its caress. We couldn’t make the chickens stay in the shed and Pidriķis the cat was snoozing cosily in the warm sun. Even the pale green and pink shoots of the phlox and the peonies     have already appeared above the ground. The lark is trilling high up in the skies towards the sun and the blackbirds are starting to nest at the edges of the forests. I have already seen the wild geese arriving in formation, cackling – from the distant, warm south, they are again traversing   the great distance to their northern birthplace, now the summer is approaching there. – But yesterday we had cold of -5⁰C again and the ground became hard once more and towards the evening tiny snowflakes started to fall from the dark sky, that the wind was buffeting about with his unruly steeds. It is still snowing this morning and you can hardly get to the cattle-shed in your clogs. But that is sure to be the last “skylark” or Lenten snow, which can’t go on for long and the spring will be the nicer for it and it will be more pleasant for starting the spring jobs. The yard has been piled full of firewood again, yesterday an old man came to help saw it up. Mum and I are taking turns in weaving cloth. After that we will weave towels, they will be much quicker. We will need to hurry up with the indoor jobs, so our hands are free when the earth calls for the seed to be spread. – This morning our young cow Rasa gave birth to a bull calf and her udder is now so big, that she looks like being a good milking cow. So I am writing and telling you things and it seems to me that we are living peacefully and well, but you over there are having such a hard time, don’t you have to worry and think hard if you can even have your daily sustenance, and what will your life’s tomorrow bring.  But truly I don’t believe that anybody could ever take away our hope and faith in a brighter, happier future for us all!  - Give our love to your wife Lidija and to Ilmars. Our love to you yourself too – your family at home.
Maiga LAPIŅŠ, my great grandmother.

(In Janis’ mother Katrine ČIRKŠIS's writing)
Greetings, my dear children. I am happy and thank you so very much for the namesday greeting. I will tell you that I am now spinning wool for the warp of the cloth and I have almost finished. Katy is doing the wool for the coloured threads and  when that is done we will set up the looms for weaving cloth, because we know that when you are able to return home you will need it and we will be able to clothe you, so that you can rest from the hardship of exile. I’ve got a bit of wine ready too, which we are saving for you to refresh your exhausted hearts. And grandma is waiting for you more than anyone, for she has become like a small child. She stands outside and waits for cars for when Peteritis and Janitis come home. We are having a really hard time with her because she goes up the road to wait, this morning I caught up with her again near the Pavils’ place. So I will finish and may this page be a caress and a blessing to you far away. Greetings from Dad.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Letters from Latvia - Nica 19th of February 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 15th Letter in the series. 

Before the next letter I must say that given Latvia's history it is hard not to mention how scary the current events in the Ukraine are for Latvians. Now more then ever I feel the need to continue publishing these letters. 

For those who are unaware, after WWII an iron curtain went up around the Soviet Union - which at the time included Latvia. Those behind the curtain watched their countries and way of life be destroyed slowly by the imperialistic Communist system. The Latvian language itself was nearly made extinct through mass immigration and language policy.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated, many people who considered themselves ethnic Russians decided to stay in Latvia. Because most Latvians spoke Russian but few Russians spoke Latvian, the Lativan language laws were introduced in order to protect our heritage. Today, there is a large minority of people who identify themselves as Russian still living in Latvia. Some Russians feel that these laws discriminate against them since they are not allowed to become citizens unless they speak Latvian (or are born in Latvia). Of course, if they took the time and effort to learn they could become citizens but still, many whinge about discrimination.

It should be noted here that I consider myself an ethnic Latvian however since I cannot speak Latvian I am not allowed to become a Latvian citizen. The language requirement has nothing to do with race or ethnicity. The argument that a language requirement for citizenship is made even more absurd when viewed from countries such as Australia and America which have basic history tests, in English for citizenship - and English unlike Latvian, is in no danger of extinction!

Since the restoration of Latvian independence, there have been many veiled (and explicit) threats from officials in the Russian government and military aimed at Latvia. Many Russians are unhappy that their old empire is aligning itself with Europe.

With regard to the so called election in Crimea in which the citizen exercise their right to self determination (if you believe that is really what happened) I will only say this: If Russians want to live in Russia, there is a place that they can go - Russia. Let us pray that there will always be a Ukraine for Ukrainians to live in (and a Latvia for Latvians to)!

Here is the next letter in the series:

Nica 19.2.48
Sincere greetings to you, our dear Janis, Lidija and Ilmars!
Dear Janis far away, yesterday we received your letter, which we had so been waiting for, and we were again all so very happy about it. It was written on the 20th January and so reached us in one month, which is 2 weeks faster than usual. And since the letter we received before that was written on the 25th November, I think there must be some letter written in between which is still on the way and will arrive, because the letter you wrote before that took 2 months. That doesn’t really matter, as long as it does reach us.
Dear brother, you have written so much about yourself again, your life in a distant place, and it is so  lovely to read words written by your own hand about how you are doing there far away. So we can be closer to you in our thoughts  and to what you are doing, for we are always concerned about you, and with you about your wife Lidija, and Ilmars and everyone close to you and to us. But naturally, and how else could it be, our hearts feel more for you, and pray for fate to be kind to you and bless you. But we would like to wish the same from our hearts to each and every one who is struggling to exist in exile and may they all be able to return safe and well to their homeland and experience happier times. Do you eat at a communal kitchen? We are happy that you are clothed and are not cold, but how can you manage on your pay? I am glad also that you have a radio and a lot of books. Is that the radio that you “manufactured” yourself? So you should be able to listen to broadcasts from Latvia too, from Liepaja, which is so close to us? … The radio and books are like friends, aren’t they, which strengthen the spirit and the soul? I hope your studies go well, dear brother. It may be that all knowledge can be usefully employed in life. – Everything at home is the same, the days are getting noticeably longer and make it seem that a brighter time is coming, the dark winter will soon have passed, the happy, light spring will come again! – Father has been going to the forest, bringing back firewood, Mum is knitting, I am embroidering a blouse for myself with national designs. And when our wool has been spun in Liepaja, we will start weaving, which Mum might let me have a go at too this time. We are all fit and well, we live and work and hope to see you come home also fit and well! We do not doubt that. May God stand by you now and help you! Our very, very loving greetings from your family here - at home.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

New posts coming soon!

It's been a while since my last post. As per usual, life or in this case death gets in the way of things. My mother Christel CIRKSIS passed away late last year and it has taken a while deal with everything.

Having said that, the research has continued even though I haven't been posting which means I have a massive back log of letters and other information to post! Expect the next letter to be posted early tomorrow and I should be able to have them posted regularly every week shortly.