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Tombstone Tuesday - Latvian DPs, 1948

My “Tombstone Tuesday” submission isn’t the tombstone for one person, but rather, a memorial to many.

I am currently in Copenhagen, Denmark, and one of my main reasons for coming here was to visit this memorial (click on the image to view a larger one):

It is the memorial to Latvians who died in exile in Denmark after the Second World War. My maternal grandparents were among the Latvian DPs (Displaced Persons) who lived in Denmark during this time, before going to Canada in the late 1940s. I have a photograph taken of the memorial (found in Vestre Cemetery) by one of my grandparents shortly after it was erected, and yesterday I was able to visit it myself, and take the above photo, sixty years later.

Translated to English (in spirit, not word for word), the top inscription reads: “I rest my head on the dreams of my homeland.” The bottom inscription: “For our countrymen who died during the time of exile in Denmark – Latvian Displaced Persons, 1948″. The blocks in front of the memorial, as well as on either side it, list the names of these Latvians.

It has been difficult to find any information on Latvian DPs in Denmark, since most information about Latvian DPs talks exclusively about the DP camps in Germany. This is why it was so important for me to visit this memorial myself: It is a powerful reminder saying “We were here. Do not forget us.”

6 comments to Tombstone Tuesday – Latvian DPs, 1948

  • Joan Hill

    Thanks for the informative and interesting post of your travels. I will keep track of your journey.

  • Atis

    My father Leo Stepe was the artist chosen by the Latvian Memorial Committee to design and create this memorial. I would have to say that he always considered this memorial one of his most meaningful creations. My family has various design sketches of his early vision of the monument and photos of him working on it, also a plaster cast of this memorial made from the original mold. It almost brought tears to my eyes to see that it has influenced other lives. Thank you for sharing that with us. ps: I would love to send you a photo of him working on it.

  • Oliver Stepe

    Thanks for your comment on this memorial. Our father is the artist who was commissioned to create and ultimatley erected this memorial. He was an honorable Latvian who moved to the United States and raised a family working as a house painter. He died in 2000 and his name was Leo Stepe. Some of his work is expected to go on tour in 2010.
    -Oliver Stepe on behalf of “The Stepe Brothers”

  • Atis

    Another PS I was literally taking a break from photographing some of my dads works when I came upon this web page. I decided to compare some of your ancestral names to a list my dad created of the names of donors for this memorial and I came across A. Līcīte, M. Līcīte and M. Lukina possible relations?

  • Antra

    Atis – I would love any photos you have of work on the memorial! It would probably also mean a lot to my grandmother and great-aunt – who I believe are the A. Līcīte and M. Līcīte you have on your donor list :) My Lūkins family were not in Denmark after the war, so I don’t believe the M. Lukina is a relation. Does the list have an A. Francis and/or a J. Jakstāns as well?

    I have sent you an email at the address that you provided when making your comment.

  • Uldis Stepe

    Leo Fridericis Armas Stepe, the artist, had four sons. Immigrating to the United States in the early Fifties he briefly resided in Washinton DC then moved to Long Island NY where he lived out the rest of his life. He is interred alongside his wife in a Latvian Memorial Cemetery located in the Catskill mountains. In as much as Leo’s name is not mentioned, his progeny have discussed a rededication ceremony to install a plaque, as well as a bronze cast replica of the monument, in his honor.

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