The Exile ExperienceKeeping Identity Alive

"An interest in one’s past is a mark of culture...The study of history begins with the preservation of memories and then passing them on to subsequent generations. That, also, is an expression of love for one’s native land. To know one's ancestors through their work, virtues and language...is the strongest means of preserving that tradition.'" —historian, scholar, and Latgalian Leonards Latkovskis (1905-1991)

Camp: 1. a. a place usually away from urban areas where tents or simple buildings (as cabins) are erected for shelter or for temporary residence (as for laborers, prisoners, or vacationers) e.g. migrant labor camp

Merriman-Webster Dictionary

...the common thread binding together Latvians far from their homeland:

  • Siberian settlement and Gulag forced labor camps
  • Latvia Legion in POW camps
  • Displaced Persons ("DP") camps

Fleeing the Soviet return meant sailing down the Baltic, typically Danzig (Gdansk), or across to Sweden. Both voyages were fraught with danger: Soviets bombarded and sank refugee transports, and many of the small boats attempting to cross the Baltic fell victim to its storms.

For the conscripted Latvian Legion[1], who had hoped to use the Germans to thwart the Russian return and to then drive the Germans out in a replay of Latvia's Brīvības Cīņas (War of Independence), the end of the war brought a fresh gauntlet of perils.


[1]The Latvian Legion was formed in 1943, after the Holocaust in Eastern Europe. Not a single individual has been accused of a war crime while in service of the Legion. Some portion—300 per Nuremberg documents—of Arajs collaborators, who numbered 300-500 at the height of the Holocaust and on the order of 1,500 during later anti-partisan actions—did subsequently make it into the ranks of the Legion. Their presence is routinely used to denounce the whole—early estimates are 57,000, later ones as many as 100,000, at its peak. The Legion were not "convicted at Nuremburg" as Russia regularly accuses and even reputable scholars contend. Quite the opposite, they were stationed as as Allied guards.

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