Day of deportations remembered in Latvia

Take note – story published 2 years ago

On June 14 Latvia commemorates the thousands of citizens deported to Siberia by the Soviet authorities 80 years ago - many of whom never came back.

Latvian President Egils Levits, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda released a joint video statement in remembrance of one of the darkest days in the history of the Baltic States, the text version of which is reproduced below.

On this day 80 years ago, Soviet forces occupying Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania carried out a mass deportation. Tens of thousands of people, including the elderly and children, were torn from their homes and placed in cattle trucks for the long journey to Siberia. Many died. Some returned, to broken lives. More deportations followed. Almost every family in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania has a story to tell.

Today we can observe a moment of silence to remember the victims. But we also need to speak up. Events like the 14 June deportations happened for a reason. They happened because two evil regimes – Nazi Germany and the Soviet Communist regime – had made a secret pact to carve up Europe. With no regard for sovereignty, human rights and the rule of law, these two regimes caused untold misery and suffering. The consequences of Soviet occupation are still felt today, 30 years after restoration of independence.

That is why Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania value their independence, freedom and democracy. That is why we are committed members of the European Union and NATO. That is why we cherish our Transatlantic bonds. That is why we are alarmed about the global spread of disinformation and false narratives about European history, about the Russian violation of the borders of Ukraine and Georgia. Today, the June deportations serve to remind us – as the late congressman Tom Lantos said, ‘The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are its guardians, and we can never rest.’

You can watch the statement with English subtitles above. Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs noted the "sad anniversary" too.

The Latvian National Library has collected photographs in commemoration of the event 80 years ago, sent in by citizens here and abroad. All photos are compiled on the Deportation Map website.

A commemorative event "The deported. The unforgotten", organized by the Latvian National Library, the President of Latvia, the State Archives and Jāņa sēta, will take place on June 14 at 11:00 throughout Latvia. During that time, over 15,000 names of the deported people will be read out loud in all 119 municipalities of Latvia. The event will be livestreamed on Latvian Television, LSM and Latvian Radio. 

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. The effects on Latvian society can be felt to this day. 

An excellent multilingual online virtual museum about the experiences of children deported to Siberia is HERE.

Another good resource is this interactive map showing exactly who was deported and from where.

As previously reported by LSM, this evening will see the first screening on LTV of a new documentary film about the deportations.

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