The Hard Life

For most people born into families that have enjoyed several generations of freedom and democracy  -as is the case for most people living in Western society - it is difficult to even imagine the day to day fear and depression of living under an oppressive regime.  The closest I can ever hope to come to understanding is through the photos of some of my family members that stayed in Latvia during the occupation. Not all of the photos are depressing, some show how difficult it is to crush the human spirit. The following few photos illustrate:

I believe this photo was taken in the 1970s in Latvia. It shows My grandmother, Katrine CIRKSE in her house.  While it is a relatively new tradition to smile for photographs, the look on my grandmother's face speaks to me of a deep sadness. By this stage of her life she had outlived her husband and two out of three of her children.  It must have been difficult for my farther to see photos like this and not be able to return to Latvian to console her.

My grandmother's house looks quite bleak in this photo. It might be because it is black and white or it could be the style of the furniture. What is striking and, to my mind, unusual is the amount of plants that are grown indoors. 

My auntie, Katrine CIRKSE in what I believe is her confirmation dress. Katrine like all the CIRKSIS that I know of was a Lutheran.  This photo was taken in 1947.

Katrine CIRKSE ( my auntie) with the farm dog.  While much of the economy stagnated under soviet rule, it appears that the CIRKSIS family farm - commandeered by the Russians and turned into a collective - continued to be productive and well cared for. 


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