Zigrid (Zig) Vidners writes for the "younger generations of exiled Latvians," recalling her childhood in the city (Riga, the capital) and on the family farm in the years between world wars. The story quietly unfolds in "I Grew Up In Latvia" (paperback, self-published; for purchase information contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org).
The first half of the book takes the author to her thirteenth year and recounts mostly happy memories. Life is much more unsettled in the second half. Zigrid encounters the first feelings of love and faces the implications of war. The story is really a love affair with Latvia and invites slow reading on a rainy day to take in the sights and sounds of a time long past.
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The author remembers some of "the most joyous celebrations in Latvia, the Midsummer Fest" called "Ligo," "to sway." People begin to sway, "reaching out toward each other and toward the higher powers who bring them blessings." She is close to her father, a military man, but has an uneasy relationship with her mother. Zigrid learns to herd cows and loves to spend time in the nearby forest.
But history intrudes. Latvian freedom "was interrupted by the forceful invasion by the Soviet Union in 1940, which brought a pattern of terror that many Latvians would never forget. The outbreak of World War II brought German occupation in 1941, then a Soviet onslaught again in 1944. Knowing what this would bring, many made the hard decision to leave their beloved country to save their lives."
At fifteen, "a strange thing happened to me. . . . As I looked at the pale evening sky against the dark treetops of the forest, I thought how another day was gone and the night was coming. But then these ordinary thoughts took on a deeper meaning. It was as if somebody had said these words to me, making me realize that 'my night' too would come one day. . . Was it God who talked to me for the first time?"
In the end, Zigrid and her family must flee Latvia for Germany. That is another tale, for another book.