The deeper we delve into Latvian
history and heritage, the more there is to learn. For ourselves, and for the
world at large.
While looking through the small
library at our Latvian church in New York, we came across a book which brought
that other exile, that of our relatives, into sharp focus. That was These
Names AccuseNominal List of Latvians Deported to Soviet Russia,
second edition, published in 1982 by The Latvian National Foundation, in
The book is a recounting of the
first Soviet deportations of 1940-1941, including the first mass deportation in
1941. The historical accounts and exhibits tell a horrific story, of fates far
worse than Peters' aunt Erna, who was once flogged until her shoes ran full of
her own blood. Her crime? Being suspected of stealing extra rations of
the book to find his mother's family...
They were all there, Peters'
grandmother Emma, uncle Osvalds and his wife Erna, their children (Peters'
cousins) Janis, Gaida, and Vija, grandfather Janis, and aunt Laura. The
Russians came knocking and gave them 15 minutes to pack. Laura recalls
frantically throwing all the family pictures together, wrapped in a blanket.
She still has those pictures, delicate pieces of paper that made it thousands
of miles to Siberia and back.
Peters' uncle Osvalds was not
home, but he went to the train depot voluntarily to be taken away with his
family. Little could Osvalds suspect that the deportation "protocol" (»Appendix 1) stipulated that heads of
households be separated from their families, ostensibly to keep
the prisoners subdued, exiling the men to the harshest reaches of the Soviet
Happier times, 1940
back) Peters' uncle Osvalds and Erna, their children
(l-r, front) Peters'
cousins Gaida, Janis, and Vija
As we've mentioned
elsewhere, his wife, Erna, saw him from the the train, being led away
elsewhere. "There's your father!"Erna's wordsare the only memory
their daughter Vija had of him.
mother had been told not to go home that day, and so escaped her family's fate.
Peters' parents were were "rescheduled" on a later deportation order.
Peters' grandparents perished
early on. They lie buried in unmarked graves under an old (oak, I think it was)
treeperhaps it is still standing there, somewhere outside Krasnoyarsk.
Even so, the family was lucky. They had been deported to more of a
kolhoz/village, not a prison camp. In the beginning, Erna stole livestock feed
to supplement their meager rations. As the years progressed, they made a life
for themselves. Gaida learned dancing in school. Eventually, they built their
own family log hutGaida still remembers the rhythm of sawing the trees
with her brother Janis (now passed away). Gaida also fell in love and
Gaida's husband, Linards, had
his own tale of survival. He had been deported in a cattle car packed with men.
Most had already died before even reaching the end of the railroad line in
Siberia. After a forced march to their labor camp above the Arctic Circle, he
was the only one left alive of those who had shared that same cattle car.
Sadly, he passed away one year before Peters' first trip to Latvia.
Except for Peters' grandparents,
the family survived intacta tribute to Erna's and Laura's fortitude and
force of willto return to Latvia after 15 yearsbut their home,
Mordanga, now a kolhoz, remained off limits. Erna and Gaida were
arrested and deported a second time, for 5 more years, spending a total of two
decades in Siberia. Gaida's sister, Vija, raised Gaida's two sons, Arno and
Silvija's great-aunt was taken
away in the same deportation. She, too, appears in the list of names:
We're hoping to find out more
about her story when we visit Silvija's relatives and family friends. But such
hopes are slowly dimming, as that generation that knew the most has almost all
passed away. And it is increasingly difficult to get anyone to talk about
Siberiamore and more it seems like some shame or curse better left
forgotten. But if the story is not told, is that not worse? Now nearly
two decades after Latvian independence, the Russian government still insists
Latvia voluntarily and legally joined the Soviet Union, and brands anything
We contacted The Latvian
National Foundation, and asked for their permission to share the story of
These Names Accuse with you. Our sincere thanks to them, and to
their founder, Andrejs Eglitis. Follow the "Preface" link below (or use the Table of Contents
on top) to read the story and see the pictures for yourself. Some of the
pictures (Appendices 9, 10, and 11 in particular) are graphic and disturbing;
we suggest care in sharing with younger children. We have reproduced the
complete contents of the book (text and appendices) and have begun work on
scanning and converting the list itself.
One additional note on
These Names Accuse: the book is the list of those Latvians
deported in 1940 and 1941 by the Soviet Union, which the Latvian National
Foundation received from the Swiss Red Cross based in Geneva, gathered after
the Nazis repulsed the first Soviet invasion. Those materials specify names,
family relations, and last known residence only.
The list likely also includes
Latvian Jews deported by Stalin. One widely respected site,
www.jewishgen.org», dedicated to
the research of Jewish geneology, estimates a number in the thousands. Recent
scholarship has estimated Stalin deported 5,000 Latvian
Jewsproportionally suffering more than any other ethnic group. Deporation
of the Jewish civic and political leaders left Latvia's Jewish community
ill-equipped to organize when the Nazis and the Holocaust swept into the
Baltics.As this is a record of Stalin's deportations during the first
Soviet occupation, it does not include subsequent Nazi or Soviet
On a personal
perspective... there are few who are unaware of the Holocaust. The Soviet
army was generally hailed as "liberators" of the Jewish death camps in
Germanybut what is virtually unknown is that Stalin's reign of terror
spared no one, blind to race and creed. It was only after Peters read
These Names Accuse and began researching more information that
the truly horrific scale and indiscriminate nature of Stalin's genocide began
to become apparentalong with a near total ignorance of it in the
West. And Russia has done nothing to come to grips with or to even acknowledge
that past, continuing to deny any wrongdoing. Siberia was far from a uniquely
However, it would seem that
Stalin did seem to have a particular vendetta for the Latviansordering
all ethnic Latvians in the Soviet Union shot just for being Latvian.
Perhaps Stalin had simply wanted to erase any memory that when insurgents
captured Moscow in 1918, it was 10 batallions of Latvian infantry that guarded
the Kremlin, that defeated and later executed the insurgentscontributing
to the survival of Lenin and the Bolshevik revolution.
We suggest the following
also, in addition to books
written by Latvians, the following book:
Finally, for more insight into
the role of Latvians "saving" Bolshevism, visit: