These stones make me stumble

I am from a city that still has cobblestone streets. These roads in Riga are not the most comfortable for riding a bicycle or walking with high heel shoes (women in Latvia do it anyway) but they are beautiful. The old stones make you think of previous generations, even centuries and people who walked here. If only these cobblestones could speak…

Some cobblestones have spoken to me. Not in Riga, though, but in the German city of Hannover. These special stones are a part of memorial art project called Stolpersteine” or literary “a stumbling stone or block. Stolpersteins are small, cobblestone-sized memorials for victims of National Socialism. It is a project by German artist, Gunter Demnig, who remembers individual victims of Nazism by installing commemorative brass plaques in the pavement in front of their last address of choice.

The ‘stumbling stone’ is slightly raised to “trip up the passerby” and draws attention. I stood on the street in Hannover and looked at these stones. Each stone begins with the phrase “Here lived…” and gives the name of the person who used to lived there. Used to live! Not anymore…

This project has gone beyond Germany where thousands of these ‘stumbling stones’ are placed. You can find these in Austria, Hungary, The Netherlands, France, Belgium, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Italy, Norway and others. 18 countries all together which makes it the world’s largest memorial. In August of 2016 there will be a ceremony in Lithuania. While the majority of the stones commemorate the Jewish victims, there are also memorials to Sinti and Romani people, physically and mentally disabled, Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses, black people, homosexuals.

No memorial ‘stumbling stones’ in Latvia yet but we could place thousands. I once walked around the neighborhood which was Riga Jewish Ghetto in 1941 during the German occupation. I imagined the fences around these city blocks and those people of Latvia who were put ‘inside’ the ghetto and those who were lucky to be ‘outside’. Most of the streets and buildings have not changed much; even many old wooden ones are still standing. The old Hebrew cemetery was bulldozed over during the Soviet period and now is just a park.

There are the streets and cobblestones that witnessed people being marched down to Rumbula forest where in just two days – November 30, 1941 and December 8, 1941 – most of the people from Riga Ghetto were killed. About 24,000 Jews from Latvia and 1,000 from Germany.

I knew many of these facts but on that day in Hannover I could not ignore these small stones in the pavement. It would be so easy to miss but how can you step over it once you notice? If I was to step over, it would make me stumble. When the stone in Germany tells me a story that ends in Latvia…

“Here lived… Born on… Deported… Died in Riga”

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‘Stolperstein’ or ‘stumbling stone’ in Hannover, Germany

Latvian:

Man patīk, ka Rīgā vēl ir bruģa ielas. Riteņiem un augstiem papēžiem varbūt gan nepatīk, bet toties ir skaisti un senatnīgi. Bruģis liek aizdomāties par pagātni, par cilvēkiem no iepriekšējām paaudzēm, kas pa to ir staigājuši. Ja akmeņi spētu runāt… un akmeņi to spēj.

Mani uzrunāja bruģakmeņi Vācijas pilsētā Hanoverē. Tie ir ļoti īpaši akmeņi, kas radīti vēsturiskās atmiņas un mākslas projektā “Stolpersteine” jeb tulkojumā “Klupšanas akmeņi. Tie ir maza bruģakmeņa lielumā, izgatavoti no vara, un veltīti Nacionālā Sociālisma upuru piemiņai. Šī projekta autors ir vācu mākslinieks Gunters Demnigs, kurš nolēma godināt individuālu cilvēku piemiņu, novietojot šos akmeņus viņu pēdējās ‘brīvprātīgās’ dzīvesvietas priekšā.

“Klupšanas akmens” ir ar mazliet paceltu virsmu, lai garāmgājējs varbūt aizķertu kāju, apstātos un padomātu. Tik daudzas metaforas zem šī vārda “klupšanas akmens”. Mēs to lietojam, kad runājam par kādu potenciālu problēmu, kuru nedrīkst ignorēt. Parasti šis klupiens atklāj mūsu pašu problēmas. Patiesību par to, kas mēs esam, un kā reaģējam uz dzīvi, uz lietām, uz cilvēkiem, kuri liek mums “klupt”. Lai kā censtos šai “problēmai” pārkāpt pāri.

Uz mazajiem vara bruģakmeņiem ir iegravēta pavisam īsa informācija, kas iesākas ar vārdiem “Šeit dzīvoja…” Kādreiz dzīvoja, bet vairāk nedzīvo.

Šis piemiņas projekts ir izgājis ārpus Vācijas robežām, un tūkstošiem ‘klupšanas akmeņu’ ir uzstādīti Austrijā, Nīderlandē, Francijā, Beļģijā, Krievijā, Ukrainā, Baltkrievijā, Norvēģijā… kopumā 18 valstīs, kas to padara par lielāko memoriālu pasaulē. 2016. gada augustā pievienosies arī Lietuva. Iegravētos bruģakmeņus var pasūtīt par 120 eiro. Kaut gan lielākā daļa ir veltīti upuriem no ebreju kopienas, ir uzstādīti arī akmeņi romu jeb čigānu tautības cilvēkiem, kristiešiem un Jehovas lieciniekiem, cilvēkiem ar garīgās veselības traucējumiem, melnādainiem, homoseksuāliem.

Latvijā vēl šie “klupšanas akmeņi” nav uzstādīti, kaut gan varētu būt tūkstošiem. Pirms dažiem gadiem padzīvoju Maskavas forštatē un kārtīgi izstaigāju bijušā Rīgas ebreju geto rajonu. Vācu okupācijas laikā bija Lielais, pēc tam tika izveidots Mazais geto. Atradu robežas un gāju – pa Maskavas, Jersikas, Ebreju, Līksnas, Lauvas, Lielā Kalna, Katoļu, Jēkabpils un Lāčplēša ielām. Centos iedomāties šo rajonu apjoztu ar dzeloņdrāšu sētu un tos cilvēkus, kuri bija “iekšpus” sētas un “ārpus” tās. Kas es būtu bijusi? Garāmgājēja, kaimiņiene, novērotāja? Kas nofilmē ar savu viedtālruni?

Ir ielas, kur liekas, nekas daudz nav mainījies. Vēl stāv vecās koka mājas, vēl tas pats bruģis. Senā ebreju kapsēta padomju laikos tika nolīdzinata ar buldozeri, un tagad tur ir parks. Bet visgrūtāk bija iet pa ielām, kas ved uz Rumbulas mežu. Divu dienu laikā – 1941. gada 30. novembrī un 8. decembrī – Rumbulā tika nošauti lielākā daļa Rīgas geto cilvēku. Apmēram 24,000 Latvijas ebreju un kāds tūkstotis no Vācijas atvesto.

It kā zināma vēsture, bet tik daudz nezināmas lietas, kad skaitļi pārvēršas par vārdiem un sejām un kaimiņiem. Es, piemēram, agrāk nezināju, kur kara laikā atradās Rīgas geto. Nezināju, cik daudzi tūkstoši ebreju no citām Eiropas valstīm tika atsūtīti uz Latviju un nogalināti mūsu mežos.

Todien Hanoverē es nevarēju ‘neredzēt’ tos mazos bruģakmeņus uz ietves. Tik viegli nepamanīt un uzkāpt virsū vai pārkāpt pāri… bet var arī paklupt. Varbūt vajag paklupt.

“Šeit dzīvoja… Dzimis… Deportēts… Miris Rīgā”

 

 

Thinker, believer and one of Latvia’s best kept secrets

Few days ago I heard some sad, bitter and sweet news. Sad because I found out that a very special person has passed away. Bitter because I was hoping to meet him again this year. Sweet because I am happy for him… at 88 years old, he has gone to the Big World as he called it. I know he was looking forward to it.

Paulis Klavins – Latvian human rights activist, politician, theologian and social thinker – lived his life well. Sadly I only met him two years ago, but I am very grateful for those meetings. Glad that I recorded our talks and that I got to discuss his views and rich experience in person.

Is it just me or it seems that there is a shortage of people with good common sense? That basic wisdom of how to live responsibly and well in relation to yourself and others. Paulis had such wisdom and it was contagious. I was reading an interview in a respected intellectual magazine “Rigas Laiks” in Latvia where the journalist gave this introduction, “I think in Latvia or at least in its public space there is a lack of people who are brave enough to speak their mind. Even less people who are not only brave, but thinking; and very few who are both thinkers and believers.”

Paulis Klavins was a very significant person in Latvia’s contemporary history. He was born in Latvia but his family became refugees after WWII. They ended up in Germany and there Paulis eventually made his home. His love for Latvia and also his strong faith in Jesus brought him back to Latvia for visits in late 1960’s when Latvia was still behind the Iron Curtain and very much oppressed by the Soviet system. He and his wife became involved with a Christian human rights organization led by Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian pastor who had suffered torture and many years in Communist prisons.

As a person of action and strong conviction, Paulis asked the question that such people ask, “what can I do? what can people do when they feel so powerless?” There was strong darkness in the form of Soviet ideological lies and system that robbed people of their basic freedoms, even freedom to live. What overcomes any darkness? The Light!!! (The Czech dissident and writer Vaclav Havel wrote his famous essay called “The Power of the Powerless” where he talks about the same struggle – the struggle to live in the Light and resist the Darkness.)

These concepts can seem so abstract and lofty. Like something from “The Lord of the Rings” saga or “Star Wars” movies. Light vs Darkness… but it has very real forms and very real consequences. It is amazing how quickly we forget things. Even about our life in the USSR. I know people who were sent to prison as late as 1983 because of their Christian faith and their free thinking. These were some of the main crimes against the system… To have your own thoughts… To speak Truthfully… To disobey the Communist Party… To promote human rights and freedoms… To honor and protect your conscience…

Paulis, his family and like minded friends in the West organized an amazing (and also underground) network of people on both sides of the Iron Curtain. He made connections and built friendships with believers and people of conscience in the USSR who were suffering and persecuted. It is a long and incredible story and he has written a book, chronicling the history of this Christian human rights group called “The Action of Light” (“Gaismas Akcija”)

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I love the motto of the group. “To Shine the Light on Everything and Forgive – the Light Will Win!” These prisoners of conscience did not use military weapons or any kind of violence. Their main resistance was their testimony (not only religious) which revealed the Truth – this was their weapon of Light! The principle and value of forgiveness also revealed their conviction that the highest judge is God because he is Light. His justice will come. It gives a strong and firm foundation – to know that there is an absolute moral clarity and goodness in His judgement.

I talked with Paulis about these concepts and values because one of the crucial things that was destroyed in Latvian society during the years of Soviet system was our belief in justice and righteousness. We were taught to be ‘hypocrites’ – our public actions and private thoughts and conversations did not match. I told my teachers what they ‘needed’ to hear; I gave the Communist pledge even though I didn’t believe in it; I sang the Soviet anthem even though it reminded the tragic fact of Soviet occupation. As one of my friends said it, “we were all pushed down on our knees”.

Paulis Klavins will be missed. As a Latvian, as a Christian, as a thinker, as a truth-seeker and simply a great person. I never felt patronized because he was truly a brother of faith and someone who was always learning. Never claiming that he has ‘arrived’ but always pressing forward in his search for truth and good life. I call him one of Latvia’s best secrets because there are so many people in Latvia who have not even heard his name. Especially the younger generation who was born in free Latvia.

Nobody can fill his shoes but we do need to know what kind of shoes they were! We desperately need to promote this design, this brand. Actions of the Light!

Paulis Kļaviņš

Photos from my personal and P. Klavins archive

Latviski:

Nesen uzzināju skumjas, bēdīgas, bet arī labas vēstis. Skumjas, jo ir miris brīnišķīgs cilvēks. Bēdīgas, jo es cerēju viņu šogad atkal satikt. Labas, jo es priecājos… 88 gadu vecumā šis vīrs ir aizgājis uz Lielo pasauli, kā viņš pats to sauca. Un viņš to ļoti gaidīja.

Paulis Kļaviņš – latvietis, cilvēktiesību aizstāvis, politiķis, teologs un domātājs. Žēl, ka mēs iepazināmies tikai pirms pāris gadiem, bet esmu pateicīga par mūsu tikšanām. Priecājos, ka ierakstīju mūsu sarunas un varēju pārrunāt viņa uzskatus un bagāto dzīves pieredzi.

Vai tikai man, vai arī jums liekas, ka ļoti pietrūkst cilvēku ar patiesu dzīves gudrību? (angļu val. ‘common sense’) To veselo domāšanu, kad tu māki dzīvot savu dzīvi atbildīgi un līdzatbildīgi. Paulim bija šāda gudrība, un tā bija lipīga. Es lasīju interviju žurnālā “Rīgas laiks” 2011. gadā, un A.Rītups raksta: “Manuprāt, Latvijā vai vismaz tās publiskajā telpā trūkst drosmīgu cilvēku, kuri nebaidās teikt, ko domā. Vēl mazāk ir tādu, kas ne tikai ir drosmīgi, bet arī domājoši; pavisam maz ir tādu, kas ir gan domājoši, gan ticoši… Paulis man šķita brīvdomātājs šī vārda vēl nesagandētajā nozīmē, kas paredz, ka patstāvīgas domas brīvībai, nemitīgai gatavībai mācīties un ticības drosmei ir lielāks svars nekā savas taisnības, savu interešu un savu metafizisko bildīšu aizstāvēšanai.”

Paulis Kļaviņš bija un ir ļoti nozīmīga persona Latvijai. Dzimis Latgalē, bet kopā ar ģimeni devies bēgļu gaitās Otrā Pasaules kara laikā. Viņi nonāca Vācijā, kas kļuva par mājām. Bet mīlestība uz Latviju un arī stiprā ticība Dieva dotai brīvībai mudināja braukt uz Latviju 60-tajos gados, kad vēl bija spēcīga Padomju sistēma. Kopā ar sievu Zeltīti, viņi iesaistījās Palīdzības akcijā martīru baznīcai, kuru dibināja Ričards Vurmbrands. Mācītājs no Rumānijas, kurš pats bija daudz cietis un vajāts savas pārliecības dēļ.

Kā jau darītājs un domātājs, Paulis uzdeva jautājumu, ko parasti uzdod aktīvi cilvēki. “Ko es varu darīt? Ko var darīt, kad liekas, ka neko nevar darīt?” Bija sajūta, ka tumsas vara, kas piemita Padomju ideoloģijai un sistēmai, ir liela un stipra. Kas var uzvarēt tumsu? Gaisma!!! Arī čehu politiskā disidenta, rakstnieka un prezidenta Vaclava Havela spēcīgā eseja “Nespēcīgo spēks” (“The Power of the Powerless”) apraksta šo cīņu starp Gaismu un Tumsu.

Šīs idejas var likties tik abstraktas un gaisīgas. Kā no triloģijas “Gredzenu pavēlnieks” vai “Zvaigžņu kari” filmām. Gaisma pret Tumsu… bet tam ir tik reālas izpausmes un reālas sekas. Apbrīnojami, cik ātri mums viss aizmirstas. Pat dzīve bijušajā PSRS. Pazīstu cilvēkus, kas vēl 1983. gadā tika notiesāti, ieslodzīti, izsūtīti vai ielikti ‘trako namā’ savas ticības un brīvo uzskatu dēļ. Tas jau bija tas lielākais noziegums… domāt savas brīvās domas… runāt Patesību… aizstāvēt cilvēktiesības un brīvību… cienīt un klausīt savu sirdsapziņu…

Paulis, viņa ģimene un līdzīgi domājošie izveidoja apbrīnojamus ‘pagrīdes’ sakarus un kontaktus, un rezultātā tapa kristīga cilvēktiesību aizstāvības programma “Gaismas Akcija”. Kā raksta Paulis, visus Gaismas akcijas dalībniekus pavadīja apziņa par savas rīcības dabisko tiesiskumu — uzzināt visu par jebkuru cilvēku, kam tiek apdraudēta dzīvība, brīvība, tiesības un cilvēka cieņa. Tas ir garš un spēlfilmas scenārija cienīgs stāsts, un ir izdota grāmata par “Gaismas Akcijas” vēsturi. Te būs viena informatīva saite.

Mani iedvesmo šīs akcijas devīze. “Visu apgaismot un piedot – gaisma uzvarēs!” Vēl viens citāts: “Tiesa atstājama augstākajam, jo Dievs pats ir gaisma un var vienīgais būt taisnīgs tiesnesis. Šāda devīze šķīra garīgo cīņas lauku no militārā, un tas bija svarīgi mūsu partneriem Latvijā. Ikviens, kurš vēlējās piedalīties un atbalstīt patiesības lieciniekus, kļuva par brīvprātīgas garīgās kopības Gaismas akcijas dalībnieku.”

Mēs ar Pauli daudz pārrunājām šīs idejas un pieredzi, un ko tas nozīmē mūsdienu Latvijai. No intervijas žurnālā “Rīgas Laiks”, “Padomju laika apziņā cilvēks bija pieradis lietot šādu formulu: vienu domāt, citu runāt un trešo darīt, savā veidā trešās pakāpes šizofrēnija. Tas atstāj pēdas. Un viens no satraucošākajiem faktiem, kas ir mūsu sabiedrībā palicis, ir neticība taisnīguma principiālai iespējamībai. Šī ticība ir tik pamatīgi apkarota no padomju sistēmas, visā tanī ietvarā, ko darīja ar cilvēku, kā viņu virzīja, ko viņam lika teikt, kā viņam lika piedalīties melos – tas ir tik pamatīgi izkopts, ka jābrīnās. Kad es sāku strādāt Saeimā, es biju optimists. Pazinu Vācijas demokrātiju un domāju: nu tad tagad uz priekšu kristīgo demokrātu līnijā, un mēs tagad darīsim un veiksim, un uztaisījām pamatprogrammu, visi piekrita. Taču tas neiet. To nevar uzbūvēt tik ātri. Tas prasa laiku.”

Uzdrīkstos teikt, ka mums visiem ļoti pietrūks šis cilvēks. Kā domātājs, kā patiesības meklētājs, kā latvietis, kā kristietis. Kaut gan viņam bija tik liela pieredze, erudīcija un zināšanas, nekad nejūtos ‘pamācīta’. Kāpēc virsrakstā pieteicu Pauli kā vienu no Latvijas labāk slēptajiem dārgumiem? Jo tik daudzi no mums pat nezin viņa vārdu. Vai arī nezin šo vienreizējo un drosmīgo stāstu.

Katram cilvēkam ir savas kurpes un to izmērs. Neviens nevar aizstāt Pauli Kļaviņu, bet mums Latvijā jāzin, kas tās bija par kurpēm! Mums ļoti nepieciešams zināt un atdarināt šo dizainu, šo zīmolu, un mums ir ko eksportēt. Gaismas akcija!

The barricades and my experience of nonviolent resistance

It is January and it is another cold one in Latvia I am not in Riga but I do know what a cold winter day or night feels like. And in 1991 it was a cold January. Still, most people in Latvia (including me) remember it with special warmth because it was also a time of campfires and hot tea and passionate living.

I wish I had the kind of good memory my dad has. He always fills me in with details since some of those events 25 years ago are starting to blur. In January 1991, my beautiful city of Riga was filled with barricades – all around the Old City, around any important government building, around the national TV and Radio stations… The barricades were built with an amazing speed and determination, using anything that could create an obstacle. Huge blocks, tractors, public buses, piles of wood…

We were in the middle of Latvia’s peaceful independence movement. The previous year in 1990, the Latvian government with the overwhelming support of the people had voted to restore the independence of Latvia. It had been occupied by the USSR for many decades but everyone could sense – now is the time for freedom! For many people it felt like ‘now or never’.

People were also afraid the Soviet power will not go without a fight. Nobody knew what to expect. It was a critical time and it was obvious that there will be provocations to restore the control of Moscow. The worst provocations came that month, January of 1991, when the Soviet tanks attacked the main television tower in Vilnius, Lithuania. 14 people died and the news went around the world. As the news reached Latvia, Latvian government and the people reacted quickly and started building the barricades to protect government buildings. Thousands of people gathered in Riga.

I remember watching the news from Vilnius, shocked at seeing a tank run over a young man. Was this really happening? Will this happen in Riga, too? Everyone knew that the people stand no chance against the mighty Soviet army. What do you do when you are so powerless? Nobody had taught us about non-violent resistance. Most had never studied the methods of Gandhi  or Martin Luther King Jr but somehow we all knew what to do. We knew that the barricades are no obstacle for the tanks. We would be a human shield and if the tanks came, then the whole world would see what kind of regime was the USSR.

There were many Western journalists in the Baltic Sates. This was before cell phones, internet and social media but the communication was swift and effective. I asked my dad how did we communicate back then? He replied, “Don’t you remember there were pay-phones everywhere? And people used land lines?”

My mom was the activist in the family… If you ever knew her, you would know what a gentle woman she was but she could get really passionate when it mattered! I don’t think I had ever seen my mom so determined and unafraid. My grandmother told me that in one of the meetings where things got rough with the police and she could get arrested, my grandmother tried to talk her out of it. Telling her to go home because she had three children to raise. My mom had replied that she is not worried because my dad will do a fine job raising us. I doubt if she had asked my dad for his opinion…

So my mom and I went to Riga as soon as we heard that something needed to be done. I don’t remember the details but I do remember that we walked around the streets, talking to other people, watching the campfires being built, people starting to bring out food to those who were out of town. Big tractors appeared on the small streets and the barricades were built. We spent the whole night and next day went home.

Then it was my dad’s turn. The men from our village got organized to ‘protect’ the national television tower. They would stay there day and night, sitting around the fire and trying to keep warm. I visited him once or twice and remember thinking, “This is like the movies. Women visiting the men on the front lines and bringing them food and drinks and news from home.”

Well, it was not a movie (even though it sometimes seems so unreal) and I was just a normal high school student. Guess how much time did I spend studying that year? It helped that the teachers were ‘distracted’ from their responsibilities, too…

And then there is another important detail I remember. The churches! They were open day and night and served as the place of rest, refreshments and, most crucially, the place of prayer. Many people who had never stepped inside a church, were there. Riga has many beautiful old church buildings and they really served their purpose then. Places of peace and hope and faith in the One who is above all this ‘madness’. Peace in the midst of fear and anxiety. Hope and prayer that it will not get violent and that freedom will come peacefully. Trust in God Almighty because there was nobody else to trust.

And our trust and hope was not disappointed…

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Photo by Boris Kalesnikov

Latviskais variants:

Ir kārtējais aukstais janvāris. Šobrīd neesmu Rīgā, bet varu iedomāties aukstas dienas un naktis. Un 1991. gada janvāris arī bija auksts. Taču mēs to atceramies ar zināmu siltumu, jo domājam par ugunskuriem, karstu tēju un dzīvi ar pilnu krūti.

Žēl, ka man nav tik laba atmiņa kā tētim. Viņs vienmēr atgādina kādas detaļas , bet man šie notikumi pirms 25 gadiem jau sāk zaudēt nianses. Atceros, kā mana mīļā Rīga piepildījās ar barikādēm. Turklāt tas notika tik ātri. Betona bloki, traktori, autobusi, malkas grēdas…

Atceros arī to sajūtu, kas virmoja gaisā – tagad vai nekad. To neziņu, kas būs tālāk.

Mājās skatījāmies ziņas (man liekas, toreiz televizors gandrīz netika izslēgts), un sāka rādīt kadrus no Viļņas. Tur bija kāds jauns puisis, varbūt pat mans vienaudzis, kuru sabrauca tanks. Vai tas tiešām notiek? Vai tas notiks arī Rīgā? Visi taču saprata, ka pret vareno Padomju armiju vienkāršā tauta nevarēs nostāvēt. Ko darīt, kad jūties bezspēcīgs? Neviens mums nebija mācījis par nevardarbīgu pretošanos vai Gandija, vai Martina Lutera Kinga metodēm, bet pēkšņi cilvēki zināja, kas jādara. Zināja, ka barikādes nebūs nekāds šķērslis tankiem. Bet aiz šīm ‘barikādēm’ būs cilvēku vairogs, un ja tanki brauks virsū, tad visa pasaule redzēs, kāda ir PSRS vara un sistēma.

Rīgā bija rietumu žurnālisti. Bet nebija mobilie telefoni, internets vai sociālie mediji. Tomēr ziņas izplatījās ātri un efektīvi. Es prasīju tētim, kā mēs toreiz sazinājāmies. Viņš atbildēja: “Vai tad tu neatceries maksas telefona automātus uz ielām? Un to, ka katram mājās bija telefons?”

Mūsu ģimenē vislielākā aktīviste bija mamma… Tie, kas viņu pazina, zin, ka mana mamma bija ļoti mierīga un maiga, bet viņa varēja kļūt ļoti dedzīga, ja kaut kas likās svarīgs. Nekad nebiju redzējusi mammu tik mērķtiecīgu, apņēmīgu un bezbailīgu. Pat vecmamma (kura ir vēl lielāka aktīviste) stāsta, ka vienā no mītiņiem, kur varēja izcelties kautiņš vai arī policija (toreiz milicija) kļuva draudīga, viņa mēģinājusi atrunāt mammu no iesaistīšanās. Lai ejot mājās, jo tev taču trīs bērni! Mamma esot atbildējusi, ka viņa neuztraucoties. Viņa uzticoties mūsu tētim, ka viņš mūs labi izaudzināšot. Šaubos, vai viņa prasīja tēta domas…

Mēs abas ar mammu braucām uz Rīgu tikko, kā dzirdējām, ka kaut kas ir jādara. Atceros, ka staigājām pa Rīgas centru, runājām ar cilvēkiem. Vērojām, kā rodas pirmie ugunskuri; kā rīdzinieki nes siltu tēju un ēdienu tiem, kas uz ielām. Mazajās ielās iebrauca lieli traktori un mašīnas, un visur barikādējās. Mēs pavadījām to pirmo nakti pilsētas centrā, un nākamajā dienā braucām mājās.

Tad bija tēta kārta. No Ķekavas un no tēta darba vietas tika noorganizēts, ka viņi ‘sargās’ televīzijas torni Zaķusalā. Tā viņi tur pavadīja vairākas dienas un naktis. Arī šēžot pie ugunskuriem. Mēs aizbraucām apciemot (lai gan bija tāda kā neizteikta pavēle, lai sievietes un bērni paliek mājās). Atceros, ka man bija sajūta, it kā es piedalītos kādā filmā. “Lūk, sievietes apciemo savus vīrus un dēlus frontes līnijā… aizved ēdienu un pastāsta, kas notiek mājās.”

Bet tā nebija filma, lai gan reizēm liekas tik nereāla pagātne, un es biju vienkārši viduskolniece. Skaidrs, ka par mācībām es toreiz daudz nedomāju. Izglāba tas, ka arī skolotāji daudz ‘nedomāja’ par saviem pienākumiem…

Un vēl viena ļoti svarīga lieta, ko atceros. Baznīcas! Tās bija atvērtas dienu un nakti. Kā patversmes, kur atpūsties, pagulēt, pasildīties, iedzert kaut ko siltu, un galvenais, aizlūgt par Latviju un mums pašiem. Daudzi, kas nekad nebija kāju spēruši baznīcā, bija tur, un vecie, skaistie Rīgas dievnami vistiešākajā veidā kalpoja savam mērķim. Vietas, kur rast mieru, cerību un ticību Tam, kurš ir augstāks par šo ‘trakumu’. Miers baiļu un uztraukuma atmosfērā. Cerība un lūgšana, ka nesāksies asinsizliešana, un ka brīvība atnāks mierīgā ceļā. Paļāvība uz Dievu Visspēcīgo, jo nav cita, kam uzticēties,

Un mūsu cerība un paļāvība un uzticēšanās nepievīlās…

Don’t judge the book by its cover?

In Latvia we like to use another saying “Don’t judge a man by his hat.” It can have different meanings like do not think he is smart or important or trustworthy because he wears a nice hat. Or that a person is not what he wears. Or that we cannot know the hearts of people.

But there are times when I look at someone’s clothes and I do judge them. So, let’s talk about it… Is it right or is it wrong? Actually the clothes that I have problem with are some T-shirts and the messages they advertise. There are times when I read someone’s T-shirt and think, “what in the world? …”

There are lots of markets here in Thailand that target the tourists since it is a very popular holiday destination. Gary and I enjoy many of them, especially the Walking Street in Chiang Mai which is every Sunday evening. Lots of creative and beautiful things for sale. And lots of T-shirts… lots of them…

Many of the shops I don’t even look at since the printed messages are so obscene and vulgar. But people buy them and wear them. Often I think that foreigners while traveling wear clothes that they would never wear in their home country because it would be too offensive.

So, here are TOP 3 shirts on my “DO NOT LIKE; CANNOT STAND; FIND OFFENSIVE” list:

USSR T-shirt

As someone who grew up in the Soviet Union and learns more and more about the evils of totalitarian systems, I have a strong reaction when I see this T-shirt. I remember seeing it while working in Australia and I wanted to go up to this young Australian and ask, “hello, mate… do you have any idea what you are wearing?” I always try to think of what would be an equally offensive or disturbing message to an Australian or any other person. And, of course, I realize he would never want to live in a country like USSR. For one, he would not be able to wear any T-shirt that does not agree with the System.

Equally disturbing to me is a shirt with the Chairman Mao. It has become such a fashion statement. Sometimes he is a Mickey Mouse, sometimes he is cool, and sometimes he is just the Leader. Why do people think that it is fashionable to advertise bad people? If he was still alive, he would probably be very happy for all this world-wide attention, “Look, I am a brand.” Someone who is in the company of likes like Stalin, Hitler and other totalitarian leaders…

And even closer to my current home, this is the one I hate here in Thailand. I think it is such degrading and offensive message and view of self and other people. Unfortunately Thailand has a global reputation of sex tourism, human trafficking, availability and cheapness of sexual ‘services’. And most visitors only see the visible side of it; the invisible is much more ugly, cruel and inhumane. Money and ‘honey’ is destroying people’s lives… It is not something to be proud of or to laugh at.

This makes the whole “Do not judge the book by the cover” challenging.

no money shirt