Hero refugee boat coordinator turns 100

On May 16 Valentīne Lasmane turned 100. Lasmane  helped refugees depart on boats to Sweden during the second world war. After the war, she lived in Sweden and at one point successfully campaigned for freeing the anti-Soviet dissident Lidija Lasmane-Doroņina reported Latvian Television Monday.

On Monday her friends convened saying birthday wishes at the top of the National Library, from where you can see ships sailing into the sea. Valentīne was congratulated from across the Baltic Sea, as she lives in Stockholm. 

Hers has been a well-lived life. At the end of the second world war she, a young teacher at the time, joined the Latvian Central Council, a pro-independence resistance movement to resist the Soviet and the Nazi occupations and to keep afloat the idea of an independent Latvia.

She was a signaller at the Ventspils branch of the council, helping organize covert boat traffic with Sweden.

Lasmane looked for new boats, hid people and maintained an underground telegram link with the opposite shore. About 2,000 refugees fled to Sweden helped by the Ventspils branch.

Two years ago Latvian Television interviewed Valentīne in person where she described her activities during the turbulent times.

"My task was to decrypt the telegrams coming from Sweden and to give them to the transmitter once they were encrypted again. [..] The boat cannot come to the shore on its own, it moves close and then signals. Then there has to be a signal back so that they can tell, in the dark, that their signal has been received. At that time there were usually people who want to get to the boat, sitting quietly on the shore," said Lasmane.

Soviet-era dissident Lidija Lasmane-Doroņina was among the people wishing her a happy birthday. Lasmane-Doroņina was imprisoned three times for anti-Soviet views.

In the 80s Valentīne Lasmane campaigned internationally for freeing Lasmane-Doroņina, involving human rights organizations. Eventually Lasmane-Doroņina was let go and granted asylum in Sweden. 

The so-called "Lidija affair" was at one point of time discussed between Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev. 

"Any gratitude would come too short. I do not know how to thank her. She can dedicate herself fully," said Lidija Lasmane-Doroņina.

Valentīne Lasmane taught Latvian in Sweden, wrote books and documented eyewitness accounts of the refugees who went to Sweden on boats.

Her activities in the resistance movement have been recounted in Pēteris Krilovs' documentary Uz spēles Latvija.

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