Each year, I find myself spending more time—or at least hoping to!—in Latvia. After independence, I visited Latvia and my relatives for the very first time—and I've tried to return at least once a year since.
Growing up, I learned Latvian geography, history, grammar, and literature. In the summers, I occasionally frequented Latvian summer camp, but more often, I spent summer up in the Adirondacks by Lake Champlain, in Clemons, New York, where a group of Latvians, many of them my dad's friends from his Latvian Art Academy days—and all avid fishermen—had found a spot to congregate. But even while I passed my summers listening to stories of the old days, at the same time, I drifted away from the local Latvian community at home, in New York.
Still, friends told me, there was a passion they saw and heard in me only when I spoke of Latvia.
Suddenly, SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 1991, unexpectedly, the unfolding demise of the Soviet Union offered me the chance to see my relatives, and for my mother, the hope of seeing her family for the first time in over half a century. And so started my voyage back into my heritage.
Now, some years after that first magical trip, there's a second date to add, Sunday, May 23, 1999, not only my father's birthday back in 1905—I'm a sentimentalist—but a day that, looking back to 1991, would have seemed just as improbable and unexpected. That first time I set foot on Latvian soil, little did I suspect that some day I would be visiting with someone who shared not only my life but my love of Latvia as well!
That was the day Silvija and I married.