Kārlis Skalbe, Collected WorksUNRRA authorized publication, 1947

As historians and cultural anthropologists remind us, language is culture. Life in the Displaced Persons ("DP") camps after World War II, primarily in West Germany, was what Latvians made it: creative, vital, treasuring and preserving their cultural identity. Even as they left the camps for a new life and dispersed into the diaspora—most families to never reunite as one again with their homeland—the power of words would continue to bind them together.

Cover graphic

Kārlis Skalbe's (1879–1945) Kopoti Raksti, "Collected Works", is typical of works published during the DP years, one of countless pocket-books for Latvians to carry their culture into exile.

It contains a fairly lengthy biography of Skalbe, though not complete—stopping around 1937, and collections of poems authored during various periods of his life. It's "Volume I" of an anticipated two-volume set, published by Auseklis in Stuttgart, 1947, authorized by UNRRA (the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration).

Skalbe was perhaps the most accomplished of all Latvian story-tellers; that gift comes through in the visions and sensations he evokes in his poetry. In the forward to the volume (our translation from Latvian):

A forward to this publication in exile.

Printing Skalbe's collected works here, in exile, our purpose is to imbue our people traveling unknown roads with something valuable to strengthen our spirit. One kind of "walking stick" which we can lean on to support us is, without a doubt, our literature; and in this case, I have chosen selections from the works of our lyric cornerstone — those of Skalbe. I have taken J. Roze's publication as the source. I anticipate completing Skalbe's biography and collecting his last works for a future final volume.

In view of the near impossibility of obtaining paper, and also to keep them from taking up too much room in our meager baggage, the volumes have been prepared in a compact format set in small type.

Honored readers, please don't judge me too harshly for any technical shortcomings; my main goal was that Skalbe's works be spread among our people, be accessible to all those who esteem him—that we need not worry about losing that part of ourselves, dragging it along our road into exile, scattering to the winds.

the Publisher.

It seemed perfectly natural we should have opened the book to this poem, from one of Skalbe's poetry collections entitled "Apple blossom time." We hope our translation communicates some sense of Skalbe's mastery of imagery:

Ziedoņa idille

Man teciņa — linu audeklis,
Uz pļavas balināt klāts.
Es eju par viņu sapņodams,
Un tu pie rokas man nāc.

Spīd zālē bezdelīgactiņas
Un pieneņu ziedu zelts,
Un debess pār zemi nolaižas
Kā zilgans zīda telts.

Ap baltiem namiem ābeles zied,
Plaukst vārpas tīruma,
Un smiedamies mūsos noskatas
Mazi bērniceļmalā,

      Zalē iebriduši,
      Pirkstiņus mutē ielikuši.

A Spring idyll

My trail — a bolt of linen,
Lain out over the meadow to bleach in the sun.
I stroll upon it, dreaming,
And you come and take me by my hand.

The primrose glistens in the grass
And the dandelions' blossoms gold,
And the heavens settle down upon the land
Like a silken azure tent.

About the white houses, apple trees blossom,
The long grasses flower in the clearing,
And giggling as they look upon us
Toddlers by the roadside,

      Waded into the grass,
      Little fingers in their mouths.

...Timeline...A Shepherd DiedViens Gans Nomira (A Shepherd Died). Margarita Kovaļevska, illustrator. 1942. A miniature booklet of a folk song, published by Tautas Palīdzība (Peoples' Aid) in war-time Latvia and given out for donations to help the orphaned and widowed, illustrated by a popular Latvian pre-war and diaspora artist—and who dated Peters' father while they studied together at the Academy of Art. Behind the Polish-Soviet BreakBehind the Polish-Soviet Break, Alter Brody, introduced by Corliss Lamont. Soviet Russia Today, New York. 1943. After the Poles rightfully blamed the Katyn massacre on the Soviets, the USSR denounced (per Molotov's letter, included) the accusation as a "Hitlerite slanderous fake." Within two weeks the USSR severed relations with the Polish Government-in-Exile. Beyond alleging Polish lies, Alter Brody's monograph goes on to characterize the Polish people as an ungrateful scourge upon history—portending the post-WWII portrayal of anti-Soviet Eastern European nationalists as fascists. Latvia Under German Occupation in 1943Latvia Under German Occupation in 1943. Latvian Legation, Washington, DC. 1944. The Latvian diplomatic corps reports on Latvia's third year under Nazi occupation, recounting still-fresh events. What Latvian Wishes From This War?What Latvian Wishes From This War? Alfreds Bīlmanis. Latvian Legation, Washington DC. 1944. As head of the Latvian Foreign Ministry's press division, Alfreds Bīlmanis (1887-1948) actively promoted independent Latvia's interests abroad. His war-time monograph, subtitled: "Background, Current Situation, Hopes for the Future"—written while there was still hope for Latvia's post-war freedom—dispels still-prevalent misunderstandings regarding the historical inter-relationships of the Baltics, Europe, and Russia. Zedelgem POW Camp 2227Zedelgem POW Camp 2227Latvians whose only "crime" was to fight to free their homeland after multiple invasions are called Nazis and shot as target practice. Today, official Russia and others invested in the "Latvians are Nazis" meme keep the lie alive. Skalbe's Collected WorksSkalbe — Kopoti Raksti (Collected Works), Pirmais Sējums (Volume One), Kārlis Skalbe. Auseklis, Stuttgart. 1947. Authorized by UNRRA. Excerpted and translated poetry. Exiles' Calendar 1947Latviesu Trimdinieka Kalendars 1947 (The Latvian Exile's Calendar 1947). Complete facsimile (Latvian) and poetry translations; published in the D.P. camps, 1947 Fischbach Song FestivalDziesmu Diena Fišbachā (Fischbach Song Festival), Kārlis Puriņš. Viktors Puriņš. 1948. Latvians in the Displaced Persons camps of Fischbach and Märzfeld in Nuremberg and environs gather to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the First Latvian Song Festival. Album of 24 pictures, with foreword by composer and Fischbach DP camp elder Jēkabs Poruks. European Unification and LatviaEiropas apvienošanās kustība un mēs (The European unification movement and us), Modris Gulbis, 1948. The necessity of a European Union to the welfare of the European continent and to Latvia Anna Dārziņa Post Card SetLatvian folk costumes, Anna Dāŗziņa. Esslingen DP Camp, Jānis Liepiņš, ca. 1949. Artist Anna Dāŗziņa's illustrations of Latvian folk costumes. Set of 18 postcards. Pīrāgi & GalertsLatviska un Moderna Virtuve (The Latvian and Modern Kitchen), Fischbach D.P. Camp, Germany, 1949. Traditional Latvian recipes, excerpts and translations

Site contents copyright © 2017, S.A. and P. Vecrumba. All Rights Reserved. Wikipedia™, external site and Google Translate™ links are provided for convenience and do not constitute endorsement of, affiliation with, or responsibility for such content.

We use cookies to assist in context-sensitive navigation. By accessing our site, you agree to the placement if this type of cookie on your computer or mobile device. We do not share user information with third parties.

Please Email us at contact@latvians.com with comments or questions. We look forward to your feedback.

Center for Baltic Heritage is a LATVIANS.COM project.