One of the privileges of my work at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia is teaching and discussing with Latvian high school students the difficult chapters of our history under occupation regimes. I realize that for these teenagers it can be very abstract to talk about events in the 20th century. Also, it does…Read more Coming of age during the barricades
(un)learning lessons from the 20th century
A beautiful, well-dressed older woman and her good-looking adult son came to the front entrance just as I was about to close the main gate of the museum. Asking to see the exhibition, they quickly added that they were from Belarus and that their time in Rīga was limited. Belarus - it was the keyword…Read more (un)learning lessons from the 20th century
Communicative memory through three or four generations of family
I love browsing through my grandmother's photo albums, especially, searching for visual glimpses of her life before or during World War II, before and during the Soviet, then Nazi and then again Soviet regime. There are not many photos to find.. First of all, they were a simple farming family who did not have many…Read more Communicative memory through three or four generations of family
The surreal reality called Putin’s Russia
Why call it 'surreal' when it is very real and even dear to millions of people? It continues to look and feel surreal to me 'on the outside looking in' or 'looking over the neighbor's fence'. Metaphorically speaking. This week I watched a documentary "Putin's witnesses" by an exiled Ukrainian/Russian filmmaker Vitaly Mansky who now…Read more The surreal reality called Putin’s Russia
Ask Latvians about the Corner House and take time to listen
This museum - the former KGB headquarters in Rīga - is not for the disinterested or the deeply traumatized by Latvia's totalitarian past. In the first group, you quickly realize that this is a very somber space. Every room has soaked up fears, tears and witnessed intimidation, humiliation, broken lives and tortured consciences... For the…Read more Ask Latvians about the Corner House and take time to listen
Why bother crossing this particular bridge on May 9
The usual parade of special dates. May 1, May 4, May 8, May 9... The weather exceptionally beautiful and 'woe is me' for having to study and sit in lectures. Not that I care much about official events but glad to participate in smaller grassroots initiatives to give these days a personal meaning. Every year…Read more Why bother crossing this particular bridge on May 9
Borders check more than our passports: Story about fault lines
On May 1, I woke up and felt like going to the cinema. Latvian cinema. This year we have many new movies - fiction, documentary, animation, TV, etc. - since 2018 celebrates 100 years of national statehood. Since these movies are also a gift to me as a Latvian citizen, I better go and support…Read more Borders check more than our passports: Story about fault lines
Am I my brother’s keeper?
Thursday, November 30, in Riga was cold, wet and windy. In the evening my friend Bella and I went to the Freedom Monument to help light the candles and prepare the space for a special Holocaust memorial. The official start was to be an hour later and the volunteers were busy getting things organized. I…Read more Am I my brother’s keeper?
Helpful or harmful to talk about painful national past?
This is a common and valid question. When do the wounds, losses and memories from time ago truly become things of the past? When does it heal and hurt no more? When does dwelling on the past become harmful and we get stuck in it? Increasingly many people in my global circle of friends are…Read more Helpful or harmful to talk about painful national past?
Time to bridge the chasm of dividing memories in my own nation… Latvia
Does time heal all wounds? Few months ago I was asked by an American how much more time we need in Latvia to bridge our ethnic and historical divides and to have a real sense of 'one nation'. 30 years? 40 years? More? Wait a few decades when the older people will be gone and…Read more Time to bridge the chasm of dividing memories in my own nation… Latvia