Peters Traces His RootsOctober, 1994

Page 37

An Evening with Arturs and Lena

After more wrong turns, we finally found the unmarked turn-off near the 12km marker on the Aluksne road and come to Arturs' house. First I had to settle some finances. My "aunt" Erna, his sister, had given my mom and me money to cover our expenses in taking her all around when she came to visit her sister Edite. We told her, "This is family, any money you give to us we'll give to Arturs the next time we go to Latvia." So, I kept our side of the bargain. I figured Arturs would have a hard time refusing me, since we'd never met until now. Sure enough, Erna had written to Arturs to not take any money from us! However, I persevered.

Here we are with Arturs and Lena after a filling dinner of sausages, potatoes, and pudding with home-made preserves.

Arturs, Gaida, Lena, Laura, mom, Maris

Arturs and his wife, Lena, who is Russian, met in Siberia. He had learned to be a locksmith, and being somewhat handy, he got a pretty good reputation as a fix-it man. So, things went a little easier for him in Siberia - being looked on with favor helps. When they left Siberia, Arturs told Lena he would be happy anywhere, as long as there was some water nearby where he could fish. She found and bought this house in his homeland, less than 100 kilometers from where he grew up. So much for Russian stereotypes! The stream is about half a kilometer away and the fishing is good! Sadly, things are so hard here now that Arturs said it was easier living in Siberia. I had to agree. Seeing Arturs' and Lena's picture album was proof enough for me. Their son can't come out to help, leaving them on their own. It's not just Arturs and Lena: everyone in the countryside barely scrapes by - and then, only with luck. A bitter homecoming to one's birthplace.

Page 38

Riga

The next day, my mom and Laura recuperated from our trip, and I made my ritual trip into Riga to do some sight-seeing on my own. I can't believe it's still the height of autumn. I wait for the bus into Riga at the stop in Bolderaja.

That's the question. Am I content to cast my shadow here once a year, or is this a place to think beyond myself, to find my roots and leave some sort of legacy? Or do I just bequeath my art books to the Art Academy, donated in my dad's name. Where's the line between taking a risk and just being naive?

I get off early and stroll across the bridge over the Daugava into Vecriga (Old Riga).

Phantom or portent?
Entering Riga

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