Soviet deportations remembered 82 years on

Take note – story published 1 year ago

As with every year, June 14 sees Latvia commemorating the thousands of citizens deported to Siberia by the Soviet occupiers 82 years ago – many of whom never came back.

There were two main waves of deportations, one in the wake of the Soviet Union's 1940 occupation of independent Latvia, which saw more than 15,000 people (including 2,400 children under the age of ten) loaded into trucks on June 14, 1941.

According to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia: "Conditions in the hard labor camps were inhumane. The inmates lost their identities, and were terrorized by the guards and criminal prisoners. Food rations were meager, and did not replace the calories expended through work. People grew weak, and were crippled by diarrhoea, scurvy, and other illnesses.

Winters were marked by unbearable cold, and many did not survive the first one.  Only a small part of those deported in 1941 later returned to Latvia.  The families in forced settlement had to fend for themselves in harsh conditions; the death rate among the very young and the elderly was likewise high."

A second wave of deportations on an even larger scale, involving some 42,000 men, women and children took place on 25 March, 1949, and consequently that, too, is a day of remembrance when the Latvian flag is flown with a black ribbon. 

Similar actions also took place in Estonia and Lithuania as the Soviets showed their total disregard for human life and liberty just as Russian occupying forces are doing in Ukraine today.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was among those noting the significance of the date today.

For those wishing to learn more about the deportations, an excellent multilingual online virtual museum about the experiences of children deported to Siberia can be found here. Another good resource is this interactive map showing exactly who was deported and from where.

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