Briedis | bit.ly/cfbh_briedisKārlis Lobe, 1963—David Guild, 1993

 3 [1]

1.

Childhood and youth

"B
riedis' birthplace was in the giant forests of Latgale, where his father had moved from Vidzeme, declaring that the power of the Vidzeme landowners was too harsh and unjust", wrote A. Laivins at the end of 1916 in the collection Latvju Strēlnieks[2],—"I will tell you here about the life of Captain Briedis, what I have heard from the mouth of the hero himself. There at the boundary of the Vitebsk guberniya, an old Latvian share-cropper received a plot in the forest, built a house in the middle of it, and made a clearing for his fields of corn to grow and turn yellow when ripe. It was in this clearing that the future Captain Briedis was born.

"He spent the years of his childhood in his parents' house, where the affection of a beloved mother bred a deep religious sense in the boy. The boy with such a dedicated basis for a spiritual life began to go to school, in which he took great pleasure. Having finished the parish[3][4] school and parochial school[5], the hard working boy wanted to further his education but because of lack of money on his parents' part he was not able to do so. Nevertheless, the young seeker of enlightenment did not give up faced with such obstacles, he wanted to progress further.

"In 1902 he left his father's house for ever and went off to Daugavpils, where he found lodgings with relatives and entered the sixth class of the city school. Regularly, year after year, he would progress successfully from class to class. The boy would also find spare time for a free life of his own, seeking beauty in religion, cutting himself off from friendly relations with his peers; because of his convictions he did not have a real friend; he did not care for their levity and he would devote the hours which he might have spent with others to finding the means to acquire books. His dream—to become a priest, who would take part in the struggle against moral corruption came upon him largely during the time of the Russo-Japanese War. He saw entering a monastery as the best way to achieve this dream.

"On finishing the city school, the young man went to a monastery with the intention of acquainting himself with the life there, a life he later hoped to make his own. But on the way an incident occurred which as it were poured cold water on the ardent soul of the young seeker. 4  Not far from the monastery, at the station of Belyi Bereg, he came upon two drunken monks. Briedis considered heavy drinking one of man's greatest faults, and now he had seen those whom he had wished to be like, sunk down to the level of the very dregs of society. This had been a humiliation and a painful blow to a worshipper of beauty and innocence in life. He had to abandon suddenly an idea he had cherished for many a long year. No! He would never again go to a monastery! Then his whole life up till then had been...

"In the autumn of 1905 Briedis had found a new calling. That is—military service. He studied diligently the whole winter and in the spring of 1906 he passed the entry examination for the Orel Cadet Corps, and the following autumn he passed the competitive exam in St. Petersburg for the Vladimir Junker School[6]. Here he began a totally new life, quite different from the dreams of his childhood and early youth. This new life was harsh, responsible but fit for a hero. He was the best student in the school."

Let us specify some details. Fridrichs was the youngest son of father Andrejs and a mother Jūle, née Ģērmane, born 23 June 1888 (Old Style) or 5 July (New Style). He also had a sister and a brother. His birthplace was a farm called Ķlenoviki, in the parish of Lavša, in the guberniya of Vitebsk to which his parents had travelled six years earlier. The first schools were the Lavša Parish School and the Vitebsk Parochial School. He was able stay with his sister, who had married a railway worker in Daugavpils, and attend the local school. The town school was a senior elementary school which was fairly well thought of by those who sought after an education but could not afford the high cost of instruction at the gymnasium[7] or modern school.[8][9] By study, particularly of languages, it was not unheard of to make a transfer to the penultimate class of the modern school. It was somewhat rarer to prepare oneself, by working on one's own, to take the final exam for some middle schools as Briedis did. The general classes of the Cadet Corps which gave a full middle school certificate was one of the most respected types of school in such cases.

Briedis attended the town school at the age of fourteen in 1902 and left it in 1905 at the age of seventeen. He could not therefore have gone "regularly year by year" through all six classes, 5  but must have already entered the school at the fourth class, which made sense if he had already completed communal and parochial schools.

It was significant, that Briedis' thoughts of becoming an officer came into focus in the very autumn of 1905. Briedis' brother helped later to explain the stages he[10] had passed through in his childhood and youth. Here it should be noted that he was already showing a great urge to learn and had had a desire to read from childhood on, which frequently got in the way of his properly carrying out his shepherding duties. The animals which were usually carefully watched took advantage of a guardian with his head buried in a book. In such circumstances the father would defend the boy against the reproaches of the other members of the household: "Let the boy read and learn. Perhaps something will come of it."


[1]Indicates top of corresponding page in Latvian original. Footnotes in the original text are annotated as such: "—D.G. (original footnote)." We have added our own clarifications.
[2]Latvju Strelnieks, lit. 'the Latvian riflemen'; a journal published in Latvia after World War One.—D.G. (original footnote)
[3]Pagasts, similar to parishes in England.
[4][5]Both are schools based on the parish, only the parishes differ in size.—D.G. (original footnote)
[6]These were schools for army cadets which provided some secondary education in the initial classes.—D.G. (original footnote)
[7]gymnasium, a German-style secondary school providing a classical based education, designed to provide entry to university. They were fee-paying. Resembled the English grammar school.—D.G. (original footnote)
[8]The modern school was more technically orientated.—D.G. (original footnote)
[9]Specialized high school, usually six years, with particular emphasis on the natural sciences, mathematics, and new languages.
[10]Original Latvian refers to Briedis as "the deceased."

Updated: November, 2017

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