Two Latvians in Chicago reveal their stories

Take note – story published 8 years and 5 months ago

Gundega and Didzis call both Latvia and the United States their home, of which one is the land of opportunity, while other is tainted with melancholy. The desire for all things Latvian remains though and can partially be fulfilled in the daily life. Their stories could be heard on Latvian Radio's program 21st-century Latvian Sunday.

Gundega is a pastor in Chicago and has lived there for 16 years, while her spouse Didzis - a doctor - moved there six years ago.

"In my soul and thinking I'll always remain a Latvian, but I'll use the opportunities provided by the United States, as it's the country that tries dominating with its technologies in the world. Not only Latvian scientists, also many scientists from Europe, China, Pakistan and India want to go to America, be educated here and use that experience," Didzis said.

He said that he retains an "informative umbilical cord" or a channel with Latvia, reading news stories and following the news. "I try to feel the pulse of Latvia. I'm not indifferent about what happens in Latvia," Didzis told Latvian Radio.

He also said that consciously tries not to take root in the United States as "a scientist is like a soldier – he goes where the science is."

About 20 years ago there was a great science boom in the United States, but now there's more talk of Asia as a science hub, and Didzis said he could go there in 2 or 3 years.

"Although the United States are very forthcoming and I feel well here [..], there's still the matter of identity – who am I and why I don't feel like I belong here. It's not my language, my family is not there, my culture and my folk, in a big way. There's a small lot of us here but that's not my nation," Gundega told Latvian Radio.

Latvian Radio asked her how she has been able cope with such a neither-here-nor-there scenario, Gundega told that "When your mind is about to go haywire, you buy a ticket to Latvia."

Didzis tries going to Latvia too, and listens to Latvian music daily, especially folk songs from the popular metal band Skyforger. 

"When you're asked sixteen years ago to go to the United States, you get up, go and do. [..] [Moving here] hasn't been [a] deforming [experience], it hasn't stripped me of my identity or raised such existential questions to which I couldn't reply. It has though caused sorrow, longing for home and at times thoughts about what it is I'm doing here. However [..] my growth was possible in the United States," she said. She chooses to stay in the United States as women can become pastors there.

Didzis also mentions the rich world of opportunities. "Without Latvia, which is a part of my world, there's also my world of science. And if I want to do my science and to get paid well in Germany or the US then I must do it. However if I can get a job in Latvia as a scientist or a biology teacher in Priekuļi, the love is not enough to justify the pay," he said, referring to the small wages in Latvia even for educated professionals.

While Gundega revealed that she hasn't irreversibly settled down in America on purpose. "I have consciously not purchased a property or a house so that, if God gives me the chance or asks me to return to another place or calls me back to Latvia, I wouldn't have to work out how to sell immovable property without losses," Gundega said.

"You get used to having two homes. One is the functioning one, and the other is the one you long for, the melancholic home," she said.

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