Being Half Latvian.

Latvia
A skyline shot of Latvia. Photo credit: arcticstartup.comΒ 

Since my Latvian Dad Zigurds Rudolf Ozolins passed away in 2012, it has made me want to meet more Latvians and maintain my connection with my Latvian roots.

I was raised with an Australian Mum and Latvian Dad, a product of an era where most kids come from a melting pot of nationalities.

I never learnt much Latvian, it was too hard for my Dad to teach me, so he said every time I pestered him to.

I have worn latvian rings, the amber ones, plaited ones and the jingly ones.

This is the jingly ring, I love it. All the little signs mean something cool too. Photo credit: auskari.com
This is the jingly ring, I love it. All the little signs mean something cool too. Photo credit: auskari.com

I have eaten latvian food, pierugs and apple cake, and kransky sausages, viennas, sauekraut, rye bread, latvian liverwurst, dill gherkins and lots of good soups.

These little parcels of joy are called Pierugs. Photo credit: fbworld.com
These little parcels of joy are called Pierugs. Filled with yummy combinations, my favourite is bacon and onion. Photo credit: fbworld.com

I made decorative easter eggs, by boiling eggs and painting them at easter time; then displaying them proudly in a basket on the table.

Painting eggs at Easter time. Photo credit: www.theprimlanikitchen.com
Painting eggs at Easter time. Photo credit: http://www.theprimlanikitchen.com

I know about names day, I think mine is August 8, but I am not sure, as I have never celebrated it.Β  I love the idea of another reason for a party based purely on your name!

I have a love for birch trees and love to spot them on my travels; knowing they grow so well in Latvia, and this was my Dads favourite tree.
The other day on a train travelling to Germany, I met a Latvian lady who offered me a slice of rye bread, particularly special as it had come from Riga that very morning. The sweet, dense, aromatic bread was incredible, and reminded me strongly of my Dad and his love for good rye bread.

A very satisfying dark rye bread. I would like to have it Latvian liverwurst just to be even more Latvian about it.  Photo credit: www.latviatravel.info
A very satisfying dark rye bread. I would like to have it Latvian liverwurst just to be even more Latvian about it.
Photo credit: http://www.latviatravel.info

I would really like to make more latvian friends and connect more to more roots. This is a call out for other Latvians! Come and like my blog and send me a message!

I am in the process of writing a historical biography of my Dads life. I will trace his steps from when he was born in Riga to when he was displaced post war era and emigrated to Australia with his Mum as a teenager, to how he lived his life in Australia; from my perspective as his daughter.

I plan to publish it both in Australia and Latvia with colourful illustrations creating an art work and masterpiece I can be proud of, in honour of my amazing, loving and courageous Father and proud Latvian.

I invite you to connect with me and join me on my journey.

What does it mean to be Latvian for you? Please share your stories with me.

With love,
Anita Ozolins
The meaning of my name is ‘A little oak tree’.

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118 thoughts on “Being Half Latvian.

  1. The biography you are working on sounds divine. I am also a huge rye bread fan πŸ˜‰
    PS – on a different note, now that I have “The life-changing of magicof tidying” to read my tidying is going much better πŸ˜€ I’ll get there eventually!

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  2. Great to hear!! Glad you like reading it! I think its important to just keep plugging away at the tidying and not give up! It can be exhausting though right?? All that clearing takes energy! πŸ™‚

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  3. Hello! With the help of some good luck (laime) I am a ‘half-Latvian’, too. My father was from Latvia (Nereta), my mother was born in Canada but left there as a little child. I was born in Tacoma, Washington, USA.

    Very strange, but interesting having one foot in that old, European world : hearing my dad sing old Latvian folk songs (dainas), loving the sweet-sour rye bread, eating piragi (but we called them “shpekaraushi” for some reason). The other foot wanting to be very American, eating hamburgers and French fries, milk shakes, hearing my mother tell about her pioneer ancestors that came to the American west in covered wagons pulled by oxen. Anyway….sometimes I didn’t know which world I belonged to.

    I didn’t grow up speaking Latvian. My father taught me a few words, but it was just easier to converse in English. Later, well into my adult years, I did go to take Latvian lessons and it was the best thing I could do. I finally had the honour of speaking to my dad in his native language. He loved it!

    Anyway—-it was an interesting childhood because I had such a different outlook compared to most American children. However, with the Latvian community, I felt somewhat alienated because I wasn’t a “full” Latvian and I didn’t speak Latvian at the time. Nearly each adult Latvian scolded me for not speaking the language. Their scolding just made me feel more alienated from them.

    Well….I could go on! I’m sure there is a lot in common here.

    Labu laimi!

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  4. Thanks very much Liene! I am glad you like my blog… I write so much all the time, I love to share it all with my readers. I was on a big world trip recently which gave me lots of good inspiration to write so that was good πŸ™‚

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  5. Thanks Michael for your lengthy reply, I always love comments from my readers. Yes being half latvian is a strange one right? I felt like I never really belonged to the Latvian group, I wish I also learnt to speak early on. Now my Dad has passed away so thats sad, but hopefully I can pass on many of his traditions. Have a good day! And I hope you can continue to enjoy my blog!

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  6. From one Anita, (who is also Australasian-raised, half-Latvian, the daughter of a DP, and who has the same childhood memories as you), to another, happy vārda diena for April 10th!

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  7. Just found your blog – funny how the death of a parent inspires us. My dad passed many years ago but mum passed in 2012. I was raised speaking Latvian and was taught some of the traditions. I have the rings, the taste for fine foods and always had a desire to “return” to Latvia. When mum was dying she told me to finally take that trip to Europe I had always wanted. So in 2013 I travelled to Latvia via Canada, Iceland, the UK and Germany. When we landed in Riga, I was “home”. We only had two weeks – not long enough. I started the search for my past – very hard as many documents were lost during the war but once I returned to Australia I continued the search. I now have many documents about both mum and dad, know where my parents were actually born and lived, where my grandparents are buried and more!! I just wish I had done all of this while mum was still alive but she made it very clear to us that she did not want us to dig up the past. Would love to meet up with more second generation Latvians who are searching for their past.

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  8. HI INdra! Thanks so much for connecting. I am in Perth, where are you? Your trip sounds great, similar to mine. I was in Riga also a few years ago, my Dad was still alive at the time and was able to direct me to where he lived, so it was nice to see the house. Besides that I have lost contact with any relatives, although there were so few in the first place. Would love to connect to you too! Please contact me via Facebook… Anita Ozolins. πŸ™‚

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  9. I very much like your blog. My mother was called Milda and when I go to Riga I always think of her at the Brivibas Statue! I am lucky to have a few relatives in Latvia but I cannot speak much Latvian howver that does not stop me from communicating with them. Finally when my mother died in 2012 I took her ashes to her village and my cousins arranged a grave for her in between her mother’s and father’ graves. She finally went home! I love Latvia and always have a yearning to go there and spend more time there. We ‘re lucky enough in England for it to be a short journey. Incidentally this is totally irrelevant but my daughter and husband live in Perth!

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  10. Oh wow thats great! Maybe I could meet with them!? I am glad you like my blog! I hope you enjoy reading my other articles too! Latvia will always have a special place in my heart too! Thanks! πŸ™‚

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  11. Just found your blog through facebook. I am 100% Latvian myself, but it is interesting to learn about half Latvians that aren’t half russian. I myself live in Ireland, have a boyfriend who is American, so it will end up most likely being that my children will too be half Latvians hehe. I myself was very young when I left the country, so I have forgotten a lot of things, but I will never forget the smell of Latvia or the sounds. Whenever I visit, I feel complete, like I’m home, though I would not move there to live, it is a lovely feeling to be there. I wish more people knew of Latvia. It is such a sweet little paradise to visit. There is always something to do there – between all the museums, parks and nightlife there is something for everyone. I look forward to going there again, whenever that is.

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  12. Rachael I did the same. All I knew though was that mum was born in Nautrani (which doesn’t exist anymore).We found the location through archives and went to an area north of Rezekne to the Nautrani High School and left some of mum’s ashes there under a group of birch trees. She is also haunting the Opera House having left some of her ashes in the garden. It wasnt until I returned home and got more documents that I found out she had been born not far from where we had left her ashes.

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  13. Hey Anita, I am in Canberra – isn’t that they way it always is? People never live close to each other. There is a Facebook page for Latvians that live in Perth that speak little to no Latvian..Dean Strautins set it up last year sometime…maybe check that out

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  14. Thats amazing!! So nice to take her home. At my Dads funeral the view outaide was all birch trees, it seemed perfect to me as these were his favourite trees and native of Latvia.

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  15. I’m a half latvian, I grew up in Latvia with speaking 2 languages to both parents. they both spoke russian and latvian to each other. My mom is Ukrainian and my dad is Latvian. I like your post, I miss the food, or as much as I can remember of it. I moved to the US at 14 but I miss the food and try to recreate it as much as possible. Keep up the great blogs!

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  16. Hi Anit’ – if I might make a suggestion, it’s well worth picking up a few ancient Latvian folk songs (for example, take a look at the music section on balticshop.com). Both my parents are Latvian, though my dad also passed in 2012. As my grandmother was the head of the Latvian section at the Voice of America (shortwave radio beamed into Latvia with American propaganda during the Cold War), all three of my sisters and I were brought up speaking, and singing, in Latvian, even attending Latvian school on Saturdays and going to Latvian summer camps. In fact, you can look up Sudrabavots on YouTube and see my sisters and a handful of other Latvian-Americans singing some of the old folk songs. The harmonies are pretty unique and will provide a great soundtrack while you have a slice of our famous dark rye bread with a bit of butter and smoked salmon with a sprig of dill on top. Best of luck in your efforts to connect with your ancestry – I think you’ll find most of the diaspora to be welcoming, though every group has its share of cliques and politics. By the way, my last name, VΔ«ksniΕ†Ε‘, means little elm tree, and BΔ“rziΕ†Ε‘, another popular last name, is the little Birch – you may notice a pattern there…

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  17. Hi! I really enjoyed your blog! I am Latvian but I live in Tokyo, Japan! My daughter is half Latvian too! I think, your blog gives me some more ideas about how to keep the Latvian traditions in my family for my daughter. Thank you so much!

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  18. I was very surprised when I went to Latvia in 2013 and I felt like I was “home”. I was born and live in Australia but it has never really felt like home..I lived in Canada for 20 years and it too was not home.

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  19. Cau Anita, love your story πŸ™‚ Love meeting Latvia’s all aver the world.
    I have been born and raised in Riga, 3/4 Latvian (one nana was Russian), share the same name and name day as you. My parents called me Ani for short. Your surname would be Ozolina in Latvian as the endings change for famine. My dads surname was Briedis (deer) – but my mums, my sister and me were Briede πŸ™‚
    Now live in New Zealand.
    Would love to connect and more than happy to share the insides on living in Latvia (during and post Soviet Union times).
    You can message me on Facebook

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  20. Yes, yes, yes! Half- Latvian, yes! My dad was born in Dobele and came to Australia in 1949 as a child Displaced Person with his mother; my mum is from central west NSW woolgrower (Scottish/ English) roots. I see myself as very much part of the post-war Latvian diaspora, and grew up hungry to know more about the culture, history and people from a land so vastly different to the one we were lucky to be growing up in. Our Latvian grandmother died several years after arriving in Australia with my father, creating another degree of separation for my brothers and myself from our paternal heritage. As children, our Latvian education amounted to knowing where our exotically Β¨woggyΒ¨ surname had originated from and being able to point to Latvia on a map; developing a fondness for liverwurst and foods with dill or caraway seeds in them; and devouring the piragi our empathic Anglo mum made from the spiral-bound Time/Life Β¨The Cooking of RussiaΒ¨ book, bought one day at a garage sale. We only knew English; Dad’s Latvian language skills were that of a child’s anyway, as they were forgotten in order to assimilate into the country town he and his mum settled in after the Bathurst migrant camp circa 1950. As we grew up in the ’70s, that invisible iron-curtain was still present; despite the decades’ watering down of post-war communist fear and Australia’s growing pride in multiculturalism, we didn’t know much more about Latvia than what could be gleaned from the Encyclopaedia Britannica at the local library and a few handicrafts made by some fellow-former emigrees that my parents had befriended. We didn’t ask- he couldn’t tell. One year, I received a Christmas present of a dressed doll in Latvian costume, but I was disappointed by the fact that I wasn’t allowed to play with it: a bit of a metaphor if you think about it. I would try on my unknown grandmother’s rings and 7-day brooch and feel like Latvia was almost as mythical a place as Narnia. Thanks to the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the development of the www, my close-knit Latvian family and our tiny Australian off-shoot have reunited several times and are in semi-regular contact. One day, when the busy-ness of my adult life wanes, I will pay a visit to the Β¨grandmother-landΒ¨ I have an intangible affinity with; where I will finally scratch the itch of longing to fill gaps in my familial knowledge and experience the enigmatic Latvian-ness that is meant to be part of me, first-person.

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  21. My father came here (Australia), from Latvia with his family as a displaced person when he was a young boy. I’m in the same boat as yourself. Don’t speak Latvian but love the culture! We live in Melbourne but have family in America that are heavily involved in the Latvian community there. My Latvian grandmother in Brisbane turns 100 next year!

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  22. Wow Michelle, love it! Thanks so much for reaching out, love your feedback. I can relate to it all. I also love dill and caraway and liverwurst and gherkins. Such a weird but awesome combination. It is strange to have this heritage which we know so little about, thanks for connecting. I hope you like my other articles on my blog too. I will be sure to write more Latvian related ones too, as I have had such a great response from this one. I am motivated to write and publish and illustrate my Fathers story leaving Latvia and living his life in Australia. We all have a story right!? So much displacement continuing in the world, and Latvians are still leaving Latvia for work opportunities etc. Thanks for connecting, please stay in touch. πŸ™‚ xx

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  23. Are you planning to move back there and live? Sounds like that could be a plan!? It is nice to feel at home. I always have this feeling when I travel to Europe. But I do love Australia so much, especially Perth. Thanks for connecting!

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  24. HI Pete, thanks so much for your feedback and comment, how wonderful! I had a little look at the folk songs and they sound great too! It is so great to connect with other Latvians, my Dad would be really loving this too. He used to call himself “The King of Latvia” which I think is quite controversial in this forum πŸ˜‰ haha! A highly contested role! πŸ™‚ Take care and have a great day, I hope you enjoy my other articles. I will be sure to write more about my Latvianess…I just made that word up… πŸ™‚

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  25. Hello Anita
    I’m Latvian as well but for now living in UK and trying to go back at least twice a year nostalgic I guess.
    It’s nice when people of such small country and population are proud of they roots
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts
    P.s. by the way your surname in Latvian suppose to be ozolina πŸ˜‰

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  26. Thanks Martins for reaching out to me! I am so glad you enjoyed my article. I have just written another one as an extension to this article. It will post in a week or so, I hope you will like this one too! πŸ™‚ Thanks!

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  27. Hello, Anita!

    Pure (well… that’s debatable) Latvian here! πŸ™‚ I really liked your post. Seems sweet and quite sentimental. Let me know if you need any help on Latvian part and good luck on your book.

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  28. I have seriously contemplated moving to live in Latvia but will probably never happen – no family in Latvia but kids and grandkids here in Oz. I will definitely be returning for a longer holiday when I can. I was thinking this year for christmas but haven’t got myself organised.

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  29. Yes extended holidays might just fill in the gap as you need. And Oz is so great, it really is a wonderful place to live. Latvia can be great for extended holidays, win win!!

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  30. Yes it seems a shame for the Latvian people, as it really does feel like it is being dominated by Russians, even trying to take over the language? Last I was in Riga there was a movement to make Russian the main language! crazy!! But sadly it is most likely the most widely spoken…

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  31. As a latvian myself, it was very interesting to read about your experience as a half-latvian. I would love to read your book some day! :))
    Greetings from Liepaja, Latvia

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  32. Hello Anita,’
    I am also half Latvian… my dad was Latvian/Russian, my mom Venezuelan… I feel my Latvian roots very deeply, and one of my dreams is to find my family in Riga, what is left of it. My Dad passed away in 2012, and he was a great influence in our family… eating piroshkis, celebrating nov. 18.. painting Easter eggs… Don’t speak Latvian… but feel Latvian in my heart!. Thank you and I hope to keep in touch

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  33. Thank you for your post! I am half Latvian too, my Dad was born in Riga and my Mom in the U.S. When my Grandparents, Dad, and Aunts fled Latvia during the War, they went to Germany first. Then Czechoslovakia, then back to Germany before being able to come to the United States to work on a farm in Colorado.

    They the moved to Longview, WA, and that is where I was born. I liked the fact that I was half Latvian, as it made me feel special and proud.

    My Grandpa regained possession of his farm in Livberze Latvia after the Soviet Union separated. And he and my Dad fixed it up, and my Dad would spend his summers there. I would come to visit each year and grew to know and love my family in Latvia.

    My Dad passed away a few years ago, and so now I own a farm in Latvia! I love it, but also love my life in Portland. I go back to Latvia as much as I can, and plan to retire there.

    I love making Pirags, eating the dark rye bread from Laci, and making Piparkukas at Christmas time. I love the traditions, and the Christmas market in Vetsriga.

    I will send you photos from the next time I visit Latvia, which will be in November for their Independence.

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  34. Hi Anita,

    I love this and hope you find out everything you need/ want about your dad’s roots.

    Sorry to correct you but your surname should be Ozolina, as there is difference between male & female.

    I’m currently raising two half latvians in Wales and your blog days what I think they will grow up like. Apart from we are lucky enough to visit Latvia every year and our boys love going there.

    Good luck and can’t wait to see/ read the autobiography about your dad.

    Ramona xx

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  35. Thanks Ramona! Lovely to hear from you. So wonderful you take your boys to Riga every year, a great opportunity for you all to feel more connected. I will travel back there too one day in the future. πŸ™‚ Stay in touch! xx

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  36. Hi Karin! Thanks for your comment! How wonderful you have a farm there! That would be amazing! My Dad was also in a “displacement camp” in Germany before he and his Mum came to Australia. This was in 1949/1950 around this time, quite likely they could have known each other. My Dad was born in 1932, he had me later in life, I was the second round. Sadly my sister also has passed away, she was full Latvian and spoke the language as her first language. Maybe one day I could come and visit you on your farm in Latvia? Wouldn’t that be great!? xx Please stay in touch xx

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  37. HI Carolina. Thanks so much for getting in touch! Strangely a number of people have told me their parents have died in 2012, the same year as my Dad, a bizarre coincidence? I hope you enjoy my other articles too, I have another one coming up continuing with the theme of Feeling Latvian due to the success of my first article. So wonderful to connect with so many new people! πŸ™‚ xxx

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  38. Thank you very much. I am very motivated to write this book after so much positive outpouring of support through this article. Thanks so much and this is my next goal to complete and publish my Fathers story. I would love to publish it in Latvian language too, so I will find a way to do that in the future once it is complete… πŸ™‚ Please stay in touch. xx

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  39. Hallo, I call myself “Latvian” (no half there) but my Dad was born in England, and my Mum in NSW (but all four grandparents were Latvian and we were brought up with all the tradition and (as much as possible) all the language – although I suspect a native Latvian wouldn’t understand a word I say. For a nation with 1/10 the population of Australia, I am CONSTANTLY amazed how many people I run into who are either Latvian; closely related to aLatvian (eg Spouse); or claim some close relationship to Latvia (must be because we are an awesome people). My mum was a master of the Pirags (or piragi) and loved making sourdough rye (Rupmaize) as well as Abolmaize (the apple bread you mention) and, of course, the birthday cake Klingers (which we used to have represent the number of our age rather than the more traditonal shape – and I’ve never known whether that is Latvian tradition or just something that evolved in my family).
    Now I have children of my own I understand the difficulty in preserving the language (and to a lesser degree the culture) in a household where both sides don’t come from a Latvian background…
    That said, while I find it too hard to pass the language on (which quite frankly though I can communicate, I suspect has diverged a lot from any native Latvian dialect) my wife is supportive of LAtvian tradition (and even bakes Piragi according to my mum’s recipe and scours the internet for different egg painting techniques come easter (while the onion skin red is amazing, there are many other natural ways to colour eggs too)) and one day we would love to visit Latvia with the kids….and my eldest daughter (junior primary) proudly does projects on LAtvian traditions at every opportunity at school

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  40. @Michael Zubitis (if you’re still reading the replies)…..

    Re The Piragi/Spekrausi (or however you spell it) bit…
    I always grew up knowing them as Piragi, but I’ve started to learn that Pirags/Piragi might be a more generic term that includes pies and things, whereas “shpekaraushi” is literally “rolls with speck/bacon” – probably more precise (I’ve heard them called both, but we always settled on Piragi – but I suspect one is a nickname for the other (or something)

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  41. Labdien (good day) Anita. I’m sorry for the loss of your Dad in 2012. Mine also died that year. I’m 100% Latvian, grew up in a house where Latvian was spoken. My parents came to the USA before I was born. My parents learned to speak English after they arrived in this country. My mother learned from reading the books my sister brought home from Kindergarten and my Dad learned on the job so to speak. I grew up knowing both Latvian and English (I still don’t know how I learned which was which). So while a 100% Lat, I lived in a community where there were no other Lats, so I have had different experiences than my cousins who grew up in communities with other Lats, Latvian churches, etc. As a little girl I thought it was amazing to go to a friends house and hear them speak English. I just knew after I left that they would start speaking a different language (Ha!) I will be following your blog and your Latvian discovery adventure. If you aren’t aware there is a Baltic shop that will mail you that wonderful rye bread and its oooooh so good. They also have alot of Latvian goodies, jewelry (7 day rings like you have), and other treasures.

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  42. Thanks Rita for your comment. I look forward to you enjoying other articles from my blog. I have written a part 2 to Being Latvian, I hope you will like this one too, it will post this Friday. Thanks and have a great day. Anita x

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  43. Hi Anita! I’m half Latvian too and seemingly on the same journey of discovery. I’m thrilled to have found your blog! I’m Canadian/American/Latvian. Dad went to Canada from England after the war. My Mom’s from a Ukrainian background so we got bits and pieces of many languages, and I now laugh at some of the crazy ways I grew up – I apparently spoke Latvian when I was a wee one, we ate kippers on Sunday, sauerkraut zupa in the winter, and always had the best piragis – happy to share the recipe! I’ve tried to learn Latvian and gave up years ago since there was little time/opportunity to practice, but I am more positive that YouTube may be my salvation. I live in California now and been too busy with the rest of life to be much involved in my heritage. It wasn’t until Dad’s tragic passing on Christmas of ’13, discovering an abhorrent German tax policy that taxes the pensions of Nazi labor camp victims, and attending the West Coast Latvian Song Festival last week that the stars are aligning and I’ve got the boost I think I needed. That there’s other halflats out there exploring our Latvian roots is such a relief! I am happy to have found you!

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  44. Hi Diana! Thanks for your kind reply! I am glad you like my blog! Yes I am soon to write about my Dads life and how he left Latvia and lived his whole life in Australia. I wrote 2 articles on my Latvianess i hope you saw both of them? Do you also make amazing crepes? I love those! I may be in the states next year on a trip maybe we can meet? Stay in touch! Xx

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  45. Hi Anita – just read your other piece about being Latvian. OMG! The pancakes! I spent my summers at our family cottage north of Toronto and there were a number of other Latvian families who also spent the summer up there at their cottages. Across the bay from us were the Petersons – three brothers who I fondly have adopted as my brothers since we grew up together. Their mom made the BEST crepe pancakes. I didn’t realize they were Latvian – I just thought she was an amazing cook – she was always making Latvian dishes that I couldn’t get enough of! There would usually be at least 5 or 6 kids and she’d feed us all until we just sat bellies full on the dock. Within a few hours of skiing, canoeing, trying to drown each other – we were hungry again! My family was a little different – anything Dad made was on steroids! He was a very big guy with a very big appetite so we got the biggest pancakes – like at a truckers stop! I’ll have to dig up a recipe – I do have a Latvian recipe book from the Latvian Center in Toronto – they compiled it a while ago with the best of the best recipes.
    Let’s keep in touch about next year – I’m possibly in Latvia late summer – we’re taking some of Dad home to Riga to be by his Mom. Unfortunately she passed in Latvia at the end of the war before they could be reunited.
    Are you back to Perth now?

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  46. How wonderful Diana! Yes I am back in Perth now. But always thinking about the next trip! My Dad also had a very hearty appetite we ate and ate and ate when we were young. Always running around with lots of energy we burnt food off no problems! Thanks for commenting glad you liked the second article! Please feel free to share it on facebook, be great to attract more Latvians! X thanks!

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  47. latvian father, american mom. like you, he never taught me much of the language. i know “labrit” “ar labu nachte” and various other little phrases. my name is astrida, which i think is rather latvian, in other countries it would be astrid.

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  48. I too am half-Latvian from the same era. My father was born Laimdots Gailis in Rembate, Latvia in 1926 and my mother was German from the small village of Sorsum near Hanover. My father found himself confined to a Nazi labor camp during WWII. How he was assigned to serve hard labor, as a young man of 18, I can’t confirm, but I have read that those that refused to serve in the Nazi Army were confined to labor camps. It wasn’t spoken about. My parents met after the British liberated the camp. A Sponsor made it possible for my parents to come to the United States in 1951. They settled in an area where a number of Latvian families could get together as a cultural group – I’m lucky, I was introduced to Latvian customs, foods, language (although I rejected learning the Latvian language as a child, German was my first language – but they tried), etc. There were enough of us living in this area that they formed Priedaine, the NJ Latvian American Society located at a place where we could all come together. Sundays were full of gatherings, John’s Day was festive. I’m looking to make a trip to Latvia sometime in my lifetime. Waiting for my cousin (that speaks) to agree to go back. My godfather moved back to Latvia. I too was canvassed regarding applying for dual citizenship. I’m not driven toward taking it. My maiden name means … “Rooster” πŸ™‚

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  49. Hello Anita, I’m Latvian living in US. Unlike a lot of previous comment writers, I was born in Latvia and moved to US when I was 19. Now almost half of my life lived in States, I have found it interesting journey to reconcile my experiences with those of children, whose parents fled the WWII. One common thread is the pride in our roots in such a tiny country on global scale , yet with such rich cultural heritage. If you have any questions regarding culture, everyday life etc, I’m happy to help. While Ozolins is very common last name in Latvia (meaning Oak), I’m not sure if you have tried to fill out Geni.com genealogy profile. I used the free option. But if you have knowledge of your family tree, there might be some overlapping family trees, that can offer you connecting with other members. I’m wishing you the very best in your trip to Latvia, also you may want to consider trip during 2018 Song and Dance festival http://www.latvia.travel/en/article/song-and-dance-celebration
    Ilze

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  50. Hi Anita, fingers crossed for you in 2016. That FB page is a goldmine of people wanting to help each other reconnect and find their past. As you know, I am 1/2 Latvian as well, through my Dad. fled through Sweden and eventually made his way to Canada. 2015 was my year of discovery of family and past in Latvia. Ilze hits it right on, a pride many of us are still discovering. It had been suppressed for so long many of us never understood what our roots really were. Once you start looking, it is an amazing place. The decades old B&W pictures that carried many of us for years, become full colour. To see, feel and touch our parents past is special.

    Coincidentally, I have an Auseklis blanket on the way Ilze trying to bring some of that heritage in my home. ;-). Song and Dance festival is on the bucket list.

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  51. Thank you very much! I am now on the trail chasing my Grandmothers roots. Lize Zalcmanis was her name, born 5 July 1903 in Kuldiga. I am finding a few new things out… she had a sister Emilija I just discovered only last night!! So thats exciting!!! Thanks for the tip on the festival I will look into it! πŸ™‚ xx

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  52. Sveiki, Anita. Both of my parents were from Latvia, but met here in California. Unfortunately, my mom divorced my dad when I was 4. She remarried a non-Latvian, and from that point, I was not exposed too much to the Latvian culture. Sure, I heard Latvian spoken between my much older half-sister, mother and grandma, but for some reason, I learned to hear Latvian more as a noise. I caused quite a stir with my mom when I decided to visit Latvia for the 1st time in 2008, and try to meet not just my mother’s family, but try to track down any of my father’s family (only my father came to the USA from his family) I was so moved by visiting Latvia and especially meeting so many cousins, and even my last living sister of my father, who said meeting me was the best day of her life (probably because of her love for my father). I was so moved by this trip, that I had to write a song about it. The guitarist who played is a cousin of mine on my father’s side: https://soundcloud.com/skyswim-1/my-family-of-latvia .

    My mom passed away in 2011, and because I arranged for a Latvian funeral, I was invited to join the Latvian community in Los Angeles. I was quickly made to feel at home by many there, and somehow got quickly pulled into being involved there, especially with the Latvian Men’s Choir of Los Angeles. This choir did a 2-week singing tour of Latvia in the summer of 2015. If you are near a Latvian community where you live, I think it is worth checking it out. For me, it helped me figure out the Latvian psyche, and thus, tell me more about myself, both good and maybe not so good. There are various mp3-based studies out there to learn Latvian, but the best one is from the 80’s, and originally on cassette. I got my hands on pretty much all of them, and over and over, I’ve been listening to them on my daily exercise walks since 2008. I’ve come a long way. I will unfortunately, never speak Latvian fluently, and that can work a little against you in the Latvian community, where most people there speak it fluently. For one thing, it seems that Latvians, even the ones born outside of Latvia, are not used to dealing with teaching Latvian to adult Latvians. Some insist I ONLY speak Latvian in the community, which really is not a helpful approach, because one Latvian there roughly my age speaks very little Latvian because of this attitude, even though his parents spoke fluent Latvian (and his dad actually ran for President of Latvia at one point).

    Well, this is getting long, but my somewhat Latvian atypical extrovert (I think) behavior is making this post a tad long, so I will stop here for now. Enjoy your continuing adventure in writing a book about your dad, and learning more about your Latvian heritage.

    Arnolds Skrimblis (technically my original Latvian name)

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  53. Hey!! Thanks for your lengthy reply! I always love a good comment! I remember as a child I decided one day that my Dad should only speak Latvian to me from then on!! I dare say that didn’t work out very well! I was enthusiastic to learn but it seemed too hard for dad to teach me, annoying right???!! I learnt some useless phrases like ” Paping why tev il noida?” Which bad translated is, dad have you got any money. Which he said was something I was asking for! haha! Funny Dad right!? Es melu tevi, was a good one, and labriet, and a few other minor words!! But really pretty basic. We had no Lat friends and Dad would speak his language with my older half sister, who had a Lat Mum and who learnt latvian as a first language. So interesting…. Anyhow now this is a long reply to make you feel better about your long comment…. lol!! Stay in touch!!! πŸ™‚ I love to write and will keep blogging, and will be heading to Latvia this year sometime to get that beautiful passport! πŸ™‚ xx

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  54. Hi! I’m Half-Latvian too! I’m a weird mix, half Latvian from my moms side and half Ecuadorian on my dads side. My grandparents left Latvia during the war and moved to Brooklyn, NY. My mom grew up in a little Latvian community in Brooklyn and she can speak Latvian fluently. I live in Queens, NY but I never got to understand my Latvian side. Since no one spoke Latvian and the fact that I lived in a Spanish neighborhood, my mom felt that it was better if I learned Spanish and not Latvian. After pestering her for so long about Latvian culture she finally decided to send me to a Latvian camp in upstate New York. Best decision ever. Its a sleep away camp for half- latvians. I learned Latvia’s national anthem, folk dances, prayers, songs, and I even learned how to speak some of it. I only know basic words like labriet, paldies, ludzu, nauda, etc but its still really cool. I started eating Latvian foods like piragis and my mom bought me the 7 day ring (jingly ring). I have been going to that camp for 9 years now and I’m glad I got to know my Latvian side. The camp was really the best thing we decided to do. Us Latvians just have this special connection and I love it πŸ™‚ We always joke about how people don’t know what or where Latvia is and we always have a rip roaring good time, Its really a beautiful country and I’m actually going there for the first time thing summer! I can’t wait to go to the song festival I heard some great things about it.

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  55. Thanks so much for getting in touch! The camp sounds wonderful! Gosh can I come??? Do you mean the song festival in 2018 or are you going to another one this summer? Do tell! Sadly there was not much of a Latvian community around me as I grew up, so i will seek it out now as an adult! πŸ™‚ Would be great to meet in Latvia!!:) I do plan to go there sometime this year. xx

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  56. No problem! The one in 2018 πŸ™‚ Sorry haha I meant to say that. You could def come to work if you wanted to its a great way to meet half-latvians. There’s also a camp in Michigan I believe but it’s more for full Latvians. πŸ™‚

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  57. Well that could be really fun!? How old are you?? Are you going to the camp this year? Half Lats sound good as I dont know much language either…What kind of work would it be? Sounds interesting! Let’s add on facebook? Anita Ozolins

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  58. Anita, i just saw that you said that your grandma was from Kuldiga, I just found out that my grandma was born there as well, 1901 i believe and then moved to Ventspils. I am taking a trip to latvia this summer, fairly sad trip. My dad passed away this December in Kuldiga but just now i am beginning to find all of this new information about my dads latvian side that no one ever told me about. I hope i can find out more about our family perhaps some long lost relatives that still live there but not holding my breath on that.

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  59. I wonder if our Granmas knew each other!?? Wouldn’t that be amazing? Chances are they did! They were both born in Kuldiga in the same year, so probably even went to school together! Amazing. What dates will you be there? I am also travelling there this summer. I am also hoping to go to Kuldiga, would be great to go together! πŸ™‚

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  60. That would be amazing to find out that these 2 ladies that ended up a world apart knew each other. I will be there from June 16th to 26th. I get to stick around for the Ligo as well. When are you going to be there? My big plan is also to eat all of the delicious food and go visit their Saturday farmers market, i just hope they still have those, lol. Piragi here I come. Add me on fb is you like, Violetta Grinberga.

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  61. It’s a summer solstice celebration, also called Jani. Super big there. I dont necessarily remember it, but I’ve been told that if I’m going, I absolutely need to stick around for that one.

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  62. Hello to all you half and fully Latvians!

    My name us Ieva, I’m a born and raised Latvian actually living in Latvia. πŸ™‚ I do have some relatives who migrated to Australia and Canada during WW2. My mom is a local history enthusiast wnd somewhat a historian so I know quite a lot about the history of Latvia.
    It’s interesting to see the enthusiasm you people have. The latvians here aren’t nearly as excited about our heritage abd culture ( because politics and…not the right place to talk about that).

    Regarding your book – in a few months I will graduate from the university and will get a professiobal bachelor’s degree in English-Latvian-Russian translation (I’m a native Latvian speaker and full bilingual proficiency English speaker). So if you would like the book to be translated into Latvian, I’d gladly do it.

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  63. Oh, and about that camp, it used to be called “3×3”. Some years ago I participated as well ( was a kid back then so I didn ‘t really go there for the identity, rather for the family-friendly fun).
    They had a gathering in Adelaide from January 2nd to 8th. Their webpage is http://www.3×3.lv/ ( it’s all in Latvian though, but I assume Google translate would be helpful, the text isn ‘t that advanced) . You may want to e-mail MārΔ«te Rumpe( m.rumpe@gmail.com ) – she organised the gathering in January and may have more information about related events in Australia.

    Another site I found ( you probably know of this one) is http://laaj.org.au/en/ – Latvian Association in Australia and New Zealand.

    And if any of you come to Latvia and would like a native guide or some help, let me know. I like to help plan trips ( and I live only an hour away from KuldΔ«ga).

    Liked by 1 person

  64. Thanks so much!! Lets be friends on facebook as its easier! Find me on Anita Ozolins. I am planning to come to Latvia in June. I would love to meet up!! πŸ™‚ xx

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  65. Hello! I’m another “half” Latvian! From Adelaide πŸ™‚ Similar story, my dad came out here as a DP in 1948, initially at Bathurst, then relocating to Adelaide, working at Port Adelaide building new wharves. He also put himself through night school until he had qualified as a PMG (Telstra) Technician.
    My sister and I also were never taught Latvian, nor did we ever really have anything much to do with Latvian activities or the Latvian community 😦 This still makes me a little sad. He was a very private person and did not “socialise” with many people. We didn’t eat “latvian” food (although there was always polish sausage and dill gherkins in the fridge haha)
    Dad came from Vilaka, on the Eastern side, not far from the Russian border. He passed away in 1995, having been back to Latvia on 3 occasions, unfortunately we did not get to accompany him on any of those trips.
    In 2012 my sister and I travelled to Riga and met our Latvian family. They took us to Vilaka and we saw the house where Dad spent his early years. It felt very special to me. We only had a few days in Riga and I would very much love to return again soon.
    I got my Latvian passport in 2010 when I was visiting London, but I need to renew it as it expired in 2015. I believe they will be doing renewals at the Consulate in Adelaide later in the year.
    Cheers, Karen

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  66. Oh thanks Karen for your comment. I am heading to Latvia in June to collect a new passport so thats very exciting. I will write and photograph about my experience while I am there which might interest you too? I will be there for LIDO festival! Fun! X

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  67. Sadly, I do not know that much about Latvia. My mother was born in a Displaced persons camp near Stuttgart Germany at the end of WWII, her mother was Latvian. Even she doesn’t know anything about her father, but her mother died shortly after my mother’s birth and my mother came to the United States in 1952, when she was 6 years old with her grandmother (I always thought that she was my grandmother, but she was actually my great grandmother). I served in the US Army in the 1980s and would have loved to visit Latvia, but due to my job, I wasn’t allowed to. I’ve recently become interested in learning more about my family. My mother’s name was Inese Ozolins and her grandmother was Milda Ozolins

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  68. Question, is there a group or organization that is seeking displaced family members? I mean is anyone looking for my grandmother and/or great grandmother? Wondering where they went and attempting to re-connect? I’d love to find out if I had family there and meet them some day.

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  69. Hi Paul! Ozolins is a very common name. Your story sounds very interesting and I know there were many people born in the DP camps. Most were there for some years. A difficult time! I really suggest you make a trip here and connect with more people through Facebook groups. There are many people looking for answers to their ancestors and there are people who can help you. Record keeping was pretty good back then too!
    Stay in touch and add me on facebook if you like. Anita Ozolins. I am really enjoying Latvia and I highly recommend a visit! Have a read of my other Latvian blogs too I wrote about 3 others with a Latvian twist!

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  70. Hi. Lovely blog.
    I’m another Aussie Latvian in Adelaide. My parents arrived as refugees in 1948 to start a new life here. Times were tough for them, Dad managed to get laboring work with no English language skills and went to night school to learn enough English to get by. I do remember though, as an eight-year-old having to be the translator during a business telephone call.
    We settled into a friendly, very middle class Australian neighborhood which was welcoming but curious of our weirdly spelled name, the strange language we spoke, the smell of my mother’s yeast cooking, particularly piragi but were happy to receive supplies of all our excess home grown vegetables. I was always slightly embarrassed about the contents of my school lunch box of rye bread, dill cucumber and homemade cottage cheese and back then would have preferred a vegemite sandwich and a fairy cake.
    As I got older, I took to wearing my Latvian Nameja ring which identifies a Latvian to other Latvians and becomes an instant conversation starter, Anytime I’ve had to front an important work meeting, I’d wear my amber beads which my mother always said would give me self-confidence and a sense of calm. Whether that’s a Latvian legend or not, I felt that it worked! I’m not sure what it is but there is something special about having Latvian heritage in an otherwise ocker Australian environment. You can see that in those with a touch of Latvian who flock to the Latvian lunch room in the market http://thelatvianlunchroom.com.au/ needing a fix of the Latvian food of their youth.
    Like much of what is posted by others, my parents didn’t want to talk about their early lives or the war. I suppose we also didn’t ask which is something I truly regret now. I know little of my mother’s family but even less of my fathers but have been doing some research online – http://www.lvva-raduraksti.lv/ You can contact Latvian archives for family searches which I have done but unfortunately they require all the information I’m looking for – dates of birth, marriage, death and parish before they begin a search. You can also look through scans of church book pages but you need keen eyesight to decipher the calligraphy which may be in Latvian, German or Russian.

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  71. Thanks so much Valda for such an extensive and detailed and thoughtful reply! Lovely to meet you! Yes I have heard of the Latvian lunchroom and I must get there when I next visit Adelaide. My Dad used to live in Adelaide but passed in 2012 so I do not travel there as frequently.
    I hope you enjoy my other articles on Latvia, I have written about 4 of them on this blog and most recently one of my articles was published in Latvian newspaper circulating in Florida!!! So random but wonderful!
    Thanks for the taking time to explore my blog I hope you continue to enjoy my writing πŸ™‚ xxx Anit

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  72. Valda, my Latvian cousin came out for a visit a couple of months ago (the first member of my father’s family to ever visit) and I took him to the Latvian Lunchroom and he enjoyed it very much and couldn’t believe a place like that could exist on the other side of the world! I’ve been there a few times and enjoy trying different things from the menu, as growing up, never got to experience Latvian cuisine. I’ve even made my own Piragi which turned out pretty well if I say so hehe…now I’m in my fifties and I feel more connected to Latvia than ever before. I just wish my Dad was still here to experience it with me πŸ˜₯

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  73. I wish my Dad was around too! But they will always be in our hearts. Have you travelled to Latvia at all? It is lovely to go back and explore and really get some Latvian vibes going! xx

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  74. Hi Anita. I am also half-Latvian. My father, Talivalds Pietris Zunde, died back in 1988, but he passed on some small bits and pieces of his roots to me… his mother’s recipes for black bread and piragi (which we have every Christmas). I have only visited Riga once, before it regained independence, and would love to go back to find out more about where he grew up.

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  75. P.S. my father was also a displaced person. If there is anywhere to find out more about what happened to Latvians during WWII I would be grateful to know where to look. His brother, Magnus, and his mother, didn’t survive.

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  76. Hi Helga,
    We found some records for my father at National Archives. My sister arranged for a printed copy of all the records they had (his d.p. file for his entry to Australia) and from memory it contained some records from his last couple of years in Europe. Was interesting reading. Some records may be digitized and available read on their website. Cheers, Karen.

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