The British Library

Ieva’s Story

My parents arrived in the uk after WW2 from Latvia. My father left a wife and two young children ( my half brother and half sister ) behind in Riga when he was conscripted into the German army fighting to defend Latvia from invasion by the USSR. My mother was a Red Cross nurse and she travelled with the army, nursing on battle fronts at age 18. My parents actually met each other in London at the end of the war - my mother had ended up in Berlin and chose to go to Britain because a couple of her nurse friends had already decided to go there. My dad was in a displaced persons camp in Sweden and avoided repatriation to the USSR by staging a hunger strike and escaping by boat, and landed in Teeside more dead than alive. He was placed in a sanitarium, and not expected to survive his injuries, but recovered and eventually moved to London where he worked in the Latvian Legation bookshop in Eaton Square.

My parents met at the Latvian DVF club, a church supported social and cultural meeting place for Latvian Expatriates, and married around 1950. My older sister and I were born in South East London and up until we left home we sang with the Latvian choir and danced with the Latvian folk dance group.

When I was at school no one had heard of the Baltic States, and it was assumed I was either “Eskimo” or from Transylvania. My family never imagined that Latvia would one day be independent, let alone a member of the EU.

It was an emotional shock when I first visited Latvia as an adult to see physical Latvian characteristics in the faces of crowds of people, never thinking that Latvia was a real place, rather than a idealised / mythic home country with no relation to our present circumstances.

-Ieva, Hastings

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