Wednesday, August 11, 2010

66 Years ago Today we Fled the Russian Front . . .

The date is etched on my memory, 11th. of August 1944. a
bright sunny summer's day with fear tangible in the very air
like an invisible leaden weight. We three children were bundled
into a horse drawn buggy and driven home with haste from the
farm where we were spending the summer.
This was no time to have the family split up. Already on the
drive we could hear the bursting shells on the horizon and flashes
of fire....the poor horse was urged along faster and faster as the
wheels rattled on the unsealed road. Mother was at work at the
post office, she hurried home. A few hours later, about seven
o'clock, a message arrived from the German imposed director of
the post office saying the last train would be at the station at nine.
He also sent his wife's address in Germany so that we would have
a destination to go to. I think he was rather sweet on our mother.
Two hours to pack and organize our posessions to be stored in
a safe place for of course we would return as soon as the Russians
were beaten back again. The Russians had taken my father four
years earlier.We did not know whether he still lived or not. In any
event, it was not safe for us to stay. Mother worked like a whirling
dervish packing up food, bedding, our silver and her precious
portable Singer sewing machine.
By nine o'clock we were at the station with what we courld carry
and a big wooden box. Naturally the train was full to bursting but
wonder of wonders, an industrialist from Riga had his own private
goods waggon and a kind heart and took us in with our goods and
During that night, or the next, while we were passing through a
large railway junction, there was an air raid. In the dark, with blue
light reflecting on the tracks from an unknown source, we ran across
track after track to the wail of the air raid sirens until, totally out
of breath, we reached an underground concrete bunker.
I had mumps.
Fate decreed that we were never again to live in our homeland.
We lost, on this one day, all that was familiar and dear to us, our
home and homeland, our extended family, our language, our
culture, the way the light glistens on a dew cup, auroras in the
midnight skies, the scent of choke cherries in June and people
who brake into song at the drop of a hat.
Others of our family who stayed or had no possibility of escape
were sent to Siberia. Some came back after twenty years of slavery,
others did not.
God grant that men learn to be less greedy and appreciate what
they have instead of killing others for that which they have.


  1. What a powerful story. It was last week too, that the two bombs were dropped in japan leading to the end of war in Asia.

    Where are you from originally?

    Glad you are well now. Are you writing a memoir?

  2. Most vivid and heart-wrenching Arija. We read stories of people displaced during wars, but it does not have the same impact as the words straight from the person who has had to rush and leave everything.
    The last photo is exceptionally poignant......I would hope at some time, mankind would evolve and learn from all the misery war produces.


  3. Hi Arija, your words are powerful I have goosebumps all over me. I have read and watch WW2 wars but your account is very personal and I could imagine how you and your siblings, your mom, neighbors, family and relatives feel at that time. You are right many haven't had the fate or change to come back and looked back but we all remember them. Did you hear about your father? Just like Ann, did you write a memoir?
    We all pray that it won't never happen again. Happy Wednesday!

  4. Ann

    I come from Latvia and yes, I am writing my wartime memories down for my grandchildren.


    the above also answers your question.

    When we fled, my brother was15, my sister 11 and I was 7 at the time.

  5. Thank you. Your story is very powerful. I felt your fear and terror. Have you ever been back to Latvia?

  6. What a remarkable memoir. The fear and loss echo through the years. I am glad you are recording your memories for your grandchildren - it is so important that they are not forgotten.

  7. Arija, you write a very moving story. I am always amazed about what others have had to face in life. Yet it makes me even more grateful for the one I've lived. I am glad you got out and have lived long in a beautiful place with, hopefully, much less strife.

  8. It is indeed a heart, gut wrenching story and I am so glad you are writing your memoirs for your children. These memories should never be forgotten. I was eleven in 1944 and vividly remember watching the news at the movie theaters each weekend. Thank you for sharing this with us, Arija! Much love to you.


  9. Dear Arija, memories like this can never leave us...

  10. Arija - this is such a story told from the eyes of a child - goodness me, how moving it is. It should be compulsory reading for children in school.
    I hope that you finally had a happy life.

  11. Cara Arjia,
    queste tue memorie sono così importanti per noi e soprattutto per coloro che, nati dopo, non hanno vissuto ( per loro fortuna ) l'orrore della guerra.
    Fai molto bene a trascrivere le tue memorie per i tuoi cari, e perchè no ? Anche per tutti gli altri ( noi )!
    Sei nei nostri cuori Arjia !!
    Buona giornata.

  12. That is a very beautifully written story of a most ugly time. It is good to remember, and to compare, I think, so that ones todays (vs. our yesterdays) can be embraced for the jewels they really truly are.

    I hope you still occasionally break into spontaneous song!

  13. This is sad ,yet it is good to know you are now safe in another country.Those times were the most difficult,I'm sure.I believe,my great-grandparents also fled Russia,but I am not sure when.

  14. Dear One~ What a brave family you had, what a heart moving story held in your memory bank and shared with us so very eloquently. As I read this, I could not help but feel the emotions that you all must have felt as you left what was home to go into the unknown. This is a history that I could never begin to imagine and what a powerful story this is. Thank you for sharing and bravo that your family was able to get out when they did~ Blessings Arija~

  15. and the precious singer sewing machine
    makes me wonder at what i choose in an instant to carry forward..
    seems your mother chose well

  16. Oh my God! Thank you for sharing this story. My eyes cry yet my heart sighs at your survival. I don't know what else to say other than I love you so much. You are a part of my life and I have a very special place in my heart for you.

    Tsup! Tsup!!!

  17. Arija what a moving story! I have goose bumps. Having read The Diary of Anne Frank your adventure could have been simlilar. How wonderful you were able to escape. Have you ever been back, and did you ever find out about your father?
    Thanks so much for sharing this with us. This certainly could be a book in the making.

  18. Well written and heart felt. I'm at a loss for words in the face of yours which are so meaningful.

  19. My heart was thumping and I held my breath as I read this. Yes, have heard tales of the incredible grandmother (mother) and the ever present sewing machine. Its stunning really. Having seen many movies and knowing that wars around the world continue to dispossess people of their rights, lands and even their lives still. When will we learn. War sucks! So good to see ur still in the land of the living with us all, another close call. I am hoping to see my dear friend again soon. I hear her heart and miss her so. Meanwhile I too lie here surfing blogland and reading of different ones and travelling vicariously to places and experiencing things secondhand that would otherwise never happen. Much much love, hugs from knuckles and warm thoughts. Its true. God has us in His palm. thank you for your loving thoughts too. x

  20. Oh Arija...I am recording my Mother-in-law's story now that she is willing to talk about her escape from Nazi Germany....She came to the US alone at age 13. Her brother and sisters escaped via some good people in Switzerland...Her parents and other family members did not. I am so sorry for your is good for your grandchildren to know... hugs...Michelle

  21. What a moving story of such a terrible event in your young life. You were fortunate to escape when you did, but so dreadful to lose your homeland in such a way. I'm glad you are writing your story for your grandchildren. It will help connect them to their heritage. Thanks for sharing this piece of your past.

  22. A powerful post. A complicated anniversary. I'm sorry to hear of your fragile health and hope that soon you regain your strength and energy.

  23. terrible memories ... did your father return alive? I do hope he did ... greetings from kri

  24. Dear Arija. I tingled from head to foot reading this. I felt white with goosebumps. How blessed we are to have you and your family with us.Keep well.

  25. What a story! You have experienced a very hard and terrible time.
    I met a lady from Latvia in Cairns. She and her husband have a motel, where we often stay before leaving Australia or arriving in Australia.
    My mum, sisters and I had to flee from Java after our concentration camp. We were rescued by the British and taken to Singapore. We had already lost all our possessions when we became prisoners. We didn't lose our homeland like you. For that was Holland. BTW the two bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved our lives. Still innocent Japanese people were killed.

  26. Dear Arija! I am so sorry that your life has still", or again, so many problems to deal with. I hope that you will physically be soon as strong as you are mentally.Some times your mind is strong and ready to tackle all kind of proplems, but your body says:"NO!
    I shall think of you and your family. Take care!

  27. I was born in 1946 and have no first hand knowledge of the war.I appreciate you sharing your powerful story

  28. I can't imagine the fear you and your family must have endured, have to flee leaving every thing you knew and loved behind.
    I sorry you are left with these sad memories, Arija.

  29. Oh Arjia, you are the one who should write a book! What a compelling story! I am so sorry you had to leave your homeland never to return. I am so glad that you survived! Do you feel like Austalia is your home now, or do you ever long for the place that gave you birth?

  30. BTW, my youngest son leaves for Afganistan in 2 weeks. I pray he will return to me and his wife and new baby girl.

  31. Kathie dear

    time heals all wounds if you are prepared to let it.
    That does not mean that at times I desperately long to spend a year in Latvia to experience the seasons, the crispness of winter, the slushy spring thaws and wonderful wildflowers that follow, the wonder of summer with more wildflowers and singing everywhere, the slanting sun rays with dust motes dancing, the flight of bumble bees and haystacks. The wonder of the early apples in September that spray juice in all directions as you crunch into them. Oh, I almost forgot the wonder of wild strawberries and raspberries, blueberrying and cranberrying, mushrooming and walking barefoot on soft fir needles.The first nip in the air as winter approaches an snow covers all and lays heavy on fir branches.Yes, I miss all that and so much more!

    But then. I believe I am a true citizen of this world of ours and I miss so many places on this earth:Canada from East to West where we lived a few years, Vermont where we spent summers at the in-laws cottage and later a memorable autumn and winter till after Christmas when we just managed to get out in time before it was declared a national disaster area with a 60" snowfall, the Austrian, German Swiss and Italian Alps,Norway and Sweden, parts of Germany, oh so many places, England, Scotland and Wales and even though I am not a city person, there are some that comfortably nestle in my heart like Salzburg, San Francisco, Vienna, Prague, Cologne and Paris, Venice and Naples and oddly Marseilles, maybe because I have always loved The Count of Monte Christo. Singapore and Sri Lanka and Oman where I felt so at home.
    Unfortunately my travelling days are over unless I go by car, train or ship so I content myself with my memories and wanderings around the web.

  32. yes to travel on the internet, wandering, which is how I found your remarkable and poignant story here (via your daughter). Thank you!

  33. Wow, I had no idea. Thank you for sharing such a personal journey.

  34. Your story is so moving...I'm glad you're safe now. Thank you for mentioning the Count of Monte Cristo also. Just finished reading it again. What a tale...

  35. Hello Arija...your mention of the Count of Monte Cristo in a comment on this page...I think it is 2 above this one...Thanks for visiting my blog too...


Blog Widget by LinkWithin