An essay: Personal experience of sustaining a Latvian identity whilst living abroad , arguably in exile

Keywords: Latvian exiles, diasporans, personal political narrative, public political activities, restoration of independence
Language: In Latvian

Most of the 120 000 Latvian refugees residing in temporary relatively safe havens in Western Europe at the end of the Second World War soon lost hope for restoration of an independent Republic of Latvia. The majority took advantage of possibilities to migrate as soon as it was feasible to countries of residence distant from Europe. This article presents a personal retrospective view of a topic little studied to date, notably, how a Latvian heritage remained alive and evolved, initially part of a small diffuse Latvian community in Montreal. Modernisation of my heritage proceeded throughout a professional career focussed on technical and scientific issues. A sceptical personal view is presented of the merits of the public diplomacy of exile activists of the times. The latter styled themselves as representatives of all Latvians living abroad (either as self-identified exiles, or members of the diaspora). After 1991, numerous media articles and academic studies of variable quality have implied solidarity of all Latvians abroad with individuals who engaged in public diplomacy. Statistics are sorely lacking for such assertions. My personal view differs from what is current wisdom. The majority of exiles and diasporans have left behind few written traces, while the activists produced copious notes. There is no move at present towards a balanced critical assessment. The liberation of the people of Latvia from their colonial masters was not led or even inspired by activists living abroad, although abetted by the latter.