State invites barricade participants to tell their stories

Take note – story published 8 years ago

The State Chancery on Friday and Saturday is asking people to record their stories in five 'memory studios' across Latvia so the events and the people who fought for Latvian independence by manning the barricades in 1991 aren't forgotten, reported Latvian Radio Friday.

In January 1991 people flowed into the capitals of the Baltic states and erected makeshift barricades around strategic locations like the parliament and the national radio to protect them against Soviet troops that wanted to crush the Baltic nations' independence drive. 2016 will mark the 25th anniversary of the events.

Latvian Radio saw that despite the freeze the first storytellers had arrived at the memory studio in the Central Market early morning. The most colorful stories will be included in a movie to be screened on January 19 at the Cabinet of Ministers.

"The Soviet times were very dreary. There was little hope, however [..], as if by miracle, there were some people who were ready to go to the Dome Square, to remain in this threatening situation.

Only later on it became a movement, and we felt safe. At first the atmosphere was very unsafe," said Jānis Dumpis.

Three of the five memory studios are in Rīga - at the Central Market, the University of Latvia, and the National Library - and the remaining two are in Liepāja and Valmiera.

Latvian Radio learned why one of the attendees wanted to save his experiences of the precarious times.

"I am 45 years old, and I remember a lot, but it's clear that I am starting to forget a lot of things too.

If I don't tell what I know and what I experienced now, it will pass away together with myself," said Tomass Cīrulis.

He witnessed an event seen by but a few - the attack by the Soviet special police force OMON on the Minsk Higher School branch in Rīga. Tomass saw, together with his fellow music school pupils, how OMON soldiers searched the school dormitories. 

"We turned on the lights, a shot sounded outdoors, and I went to see what's happening.

I saw an OMON car in the territory and a soldier with a black beret with an automatic gun in his hands. Thank God he didn't see me when I opened the window.

I was on the third floor and he was on the ground, looking out for some danger from the other windows," said Cīrulis.

While Aleksandrs Ivančikovs, who came to Rīga from Talsi, remembered the cold similar to that of today and remarked the people's solidarity during the events. He said he went to the Zakusala Television Tower, another key location, for three times during the barricades.

"The dairy, the bakery, all gave their pdocuts so that people staying here would something to eat and drink and keep warm. In that respect they were very supportive. [..] Would the same happen today? I can't tell," said Ivančikovs. 

The Barricades are officially commemorated on January 20.

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