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Latvia’s Dark Past on @OpenSocietyFoundations Instagram

Go have a look, I just finished the week of 16 posts of images and stories from my recent trip to Latvia on the @opensocietyfoundations Instagram feed. From day one’s post and by way of explanation of the delve into Latvia’s past:

My father was born a refugee in West Germany after the Second World War and with Latvia being absorbed into the Soviet Union as an Iron Curtain soon divided Europe, we never became acquainted with the land itself until I began working and studying in the region, despite the fact that Latvian culture, humor and persistence permeate our day to day lives.

Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, then occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941-1945 before it was reoccupied by the Soviet Union from 1945 until Latvian independence and the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Here are five images from the week:

"Here is a view from the Hotel Latgale in Rezekne that looks out at the United for Latvia monument. Rezekne is the regional capital of Latgale, which is the eastern region my family is from."

“Here is a view from the Hotel Latgale in Rezekne that looks out at the United for Latvia monument. Rezekne is the regional capital of Latgale, which is the eastern region my family is from.”

"When my friends and I arrived in my grandmother's town, we went to the store to ask if there was someone who might be able to tell us about the town's history. Inta, the shopkeeper, called Stanislava who met us in front of the school ten minutes later. We spent the afternoon touring mass graves and monuments to deportations. Here she is at the Red Army mass grave, the only one with names and burial plots, behind the school. Stanislava was great, she called me "my daughter" most of the afternoon, my friend said later, and gave us as thorough of a tour as anyone could. She was also more excited than anyone I've met when I told her the family names, and within the first few sentences said something my father has said many times, namely we must study history because it changes all the time."

“When my friends and I arrived in my grandmother’s town, we went to the store to ask if there was someone who might be able to tell us about the town’s history. Inta, the shopkeeper, called Stanislava who met us in front of the school ten minutes later. We spent the afternoon touring mass graves and monuments to deportations. Here she is at the Red Army mass grave, the only one with names and burial plots, behind the school. Stanislava was great, she called me “my daughter” most of the afternoon, my friend said later, and gave us as thorough of a tour as anyone could. She was also more excited than anyone I’ve met when I told her the family names, and within the first few sentences said something my father has said many times, namely we must study history because it changes all the time.”

"If you are a student of Eastern Europe, you may know what you are looking at. It is a site of genocide. In 1941, the Jewish inhabitants of the town were taken to either end of the town and shot. This is one end of the town. A small monument marks the place; it contains no names."

“If you are a student of Eastern Europe, you may know what you are looking at. It is a site of genocide. In 1941, the Jewish inhabitants of the town were taken to either end of the town and shot. This is one end of the town. A small monument marks the place; it contains no names.”

"With Stanislava we toured mass graves, monuments to deportations and acts of mass murder - the one in front of the school listed a relative. Stanislava invited us to the storeroom, where Inta, the shopkeeper, invited us to drink a strong 60 proof homebrew liquor called shmakovka while we asked each other questions."

“With Stanislava we toured mass graves, monuments to deportations and acts of mass murder – the one in front of the school listed a relative. Stanislava invited us to the storeroom, where Inta, the shopkeeper, invited us to drink a strong 60 proof homebrew liquor called shmakovka while we asked each other questions.”

"The Lido restaurant in Riga's largest outpost is on the outskirts. There is a range of every kind of Latvian national food (and lines for fried potatoes!) including many kinds of herring, fish, pork, cutlet, ribs, Latvian beers, and on the lower level, dancing. It is just the sort of place a less humble nation might call representative of freedom itself, Latvian-style."

“The Lido restaurant in Riga’s largest outpost is on the outskirts. There is a range of every kind of Latvian national food (and lines for fried potatoes!) including many kinds of herring, fish, pork, cutlet, ribs, Latvian beers, and on the lower level, dancing. It is just the sort of place a less humble nation might call representative of freedom itself, Latvian-style.”