Viewpoint: Latvia's Loss

LSM's Kārlis Streips tells a sad tale of wasted talent.

I had heard about it somewhere, but this morning I picked up the new issue of the magazine Ir, which is published every Thursday, and found out about it specifically, because the relevant person, with a slightly sad look in her eyes, is on the cover.

The story is about the psychologist Jolanta Cihanovica, who will complete her last project here in Latvia this December and move to London. A few months ago, she wrote about this on Facebook:

"If Latvia does not need us, then we are not needed. I am tired of fighting. I simply want to live a happy life. For that reason, we are selling our flat and leaving so that we can live happy lives and pay taxes in a country that counts on us and recognizes us. I will complete my work by December, and then she and I are leaving."

Readers will have noticed the word "she." In the feminine. Two women. Jolanta and her life partner, who is a woman. In the magazine interview, she even declines to name the woman, because even with her decision to finish things up and leave, she is still afraid that "the bureaucratic apparatus might, at the very last moment, complicate their lives," writes the author of the article, Ieva Puke.

Here is an example for everyone in this country who feels that same-gender couples need nothing and can arrange everything at a notary public's office, and that is that. In Jolanta's case, her life partner is from Russia, and during the last five years, this woman from Russia has paid 3,000 euros a year for "studies" that she really does not need. She has also transferred to her account "the sustenance money meant for the whole year, money that must be proven before a residency permit is granted."

This status allows her to work for no more than 20 hours a week, and she is not allowed to be self-employed even though that would be the most appropriate status for her as an artist and designer. Among other things, she has learned Latvian and has studied Latvian ornaments and folk art.

If Jolanta Cihanovica's life partner were a man, nothing of the sort would be necessary. They would get married, and along with the marriage the husband, even if he were from Russia, would obtain all of the same rights that apply to all married people in Latvia, including a permanent residency permit without the need to basically pay a bribe to the state each year just to get permission to stay for another year.

The husband would also have unlimited rights to work and earn money. What's more, the state would not have an interest in what the husband does and whether he works at all. In this specific case, the state does have an interest -- 20 hours a week, and that is that. This is surely not something that can be arranged "at the notary's office." And so Jolanta is leaving. She and her life partner will be able to get married in London where, among other things, her daughter from a previous marriage lives.

Latvia, however, cannot feel really happy about her departure. I have known Jolanta Cihanovica for many years, and it would be hard for me to imagine a more sincere person than her.

Jolanta is a psychologist with the talents of a psychologist, but also simply with an extraordinarily human approach. I don't know how many people she has helped, but I know that she has always attended LGBT events in Latvia. She was at the infamous Pride event where "protesters" threw shit at participants. Because the interior minister of Latvia at that time was Dzintars Jaundzeikars, who was so "moral" down to the tips of his toes, the police stood around and did nothing. And one of the police officers said to Jolanta Cihanovica:

"Why do you have to be what you are? I do not support you."

Jolanta Cihanovica has a master's degree in psychology and a bachelor's degree in English philology from the University of Latvia. She had attended courses to boost her knowledge in many countries, and since then she has appeared as a lector and seminar participant in equally many countries. She has taught students at the Psychology University College, the University of Latvia and the Riga Stradins University. Indeed, the last event scheduled on her seminar will be on December 1, the topic will be "The ABCs of an Effective Leader." Then Jolanta Cihanovica will move to Great Britain.


Of course, there are those who are happy about this. Upon learning about his plan, the director of the Digital Economy Development Centre, Andris Gailitis, tweeted:

"Take someone along, it will be easier for those who remain here."

As tends to happen, the guy later erased his Tweet but, as tends to happen even more often, it had already been noted, and those who want to see it can find it, not least on Jolanta Cihanovica's Facebook page.

She will take someone along. She will take along her life partner.

I do not know what Jolanta Cihanovica's life partner could give to Latvia, because I do not know the woman. I can say with full confidence, however, that Latvia will lose because Jolanta Cihanovica will no longer give anything to it. Probably that is an exaggeration. I am sure that even in London, Jolanta will watch what will happen in Latvia, and she will not be stingy with advice and help when it is necessary to fight against social darkness or, as she describes it, the "normophilia with which people are sick."

And yet she is leaving. She will pay taxes to another country. She will train people in another country. She will offer psychological advice in another country, and not in Latvia. Is our society so spiritually wealthy that we can simply afford to send this person into exile just because her life partner is a woman? Surely not.

I recently wrote on this portal about the ruling from the European Court of Human Rights which ordered the government of Italy to approve a law on partnerships so that same-gender couples who live in Italy can arrange their relationship in a legal sense, too.

As I wrote then, politicians in our country are like three little monkeys -- see nothing, hear nothing, understand nothing. Above all, they do not want to see anything, hear anything or understand anything. There you go, dear politicians. Jolanta Cihanovica is tipping her hat and saying goodbye. Latvia is losing. Thank you. And, if you did not understand, that "thank you" is with a healthy dose of irony.

(Views expressed are the writer's own)

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