Elza Žiglevica - one of three women to earn the Order of Lāčplēsis

Take note – story published 4 years ago

The next week marks one hundred years since the Bermondt battles, which concluded with the liberation of Riga on November 11, 1919.

In honor of the Latvian army's victory over Bermondt's forces, this day has been proclaimed as a day to honor fallen heroes, or Lāčplēša Day, and the Order of Lāčplēsis was established. There are three women who are holders of the military decoration, and one of them is Elza Žiglevica.

National History Museum of Latvia (LNVM) Historians Arnis Strazdiņš and Mārtiņš Vāveris told Latvian Radio her story.

“Elza Žiglevica was a student and a volunteer at the Latvian Women's Releif Corps, actively involved at a soldier relief point.

On October 10, 1919 she and her relief corps friend Emīlija Jātniece headed towards Esplanāde to bring food to Latvian army soldiers. Elza and her friend were injured by a grenade blast, but Elza was much more badly injured,” says Historian Arnis Strazdiņš. Elza's legs were devastatingly injured, but even after feeling optimistic after her surgery, she died on October 29 at 21 years of age.

Elza was one of the first students at the newly established University of Latvia, so her name is engraved along with many other fallen students on a plaque in the Small Hall at the University.

Elza was nominated by the Latvian Women's Relief Corps as a recipient of the Order of Lāčplēsis.

They wrote to the Order Council, as well as the Ministry of War, that this woman's sacrifice has gone unnoticed. The request was accepted, and in 1928 Elza Ziglevica was the last one to receive the Class III decoration of the Order of Lāčplēsis, posthumously. Her parents were there to receive it.

With the growing role of women in society, may other countries went on to bestow military awards to women for their heroic deeds in World War I. “One of the most well-known examples is in Great Britain, where Marguerite Maud McArthur received an award for her service,” says Mārtiņš Vāveris.

The stories of Order recipients are more broadly laid out at the LNVM in the "11 Heroic Stories" exhibition.

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