WW1 Diary – August 22, 1915

Sixth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War, just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front. For the background, see here. If you’ve been wondering why there has been a long break from these – your answer will be found here.

August 22, 1915

We are refugees. On August 16, at 7pm, we left our home running and stumbling. Until the last moment we thought we could stay, but our hopes were dashed. We should have already prepared, because there were many signs, that we could not stay. For example, the night before at 1am, we were awoken by loud banging on the door, we awoke in fright, the soldiers were requesting axes, saws and kerosene with which to burn the ferry. The last group of refugees to cross stayed with us with all of their animals. All throughout the night there was terrible noise, running about, screaming, both people and animals. At 4am the ferry was ready, and the fire was set to it and it burned. The sight was incredible, a huge smoke cloud – and the flames on the water – our Daugava – I imagined a sinking burning ship. We started to pack important papers and belongings, and also divided the money and hid it safely. Then we returned to bed. The morning promised a nice day -everyone was still in good spirits, we took in other refugees for lunch, including the millers from the other side of the Daugava, who had paddled across in a small boat and stayed with us. After lunch, they worried about how our soldiers burned down their mill, along with a factory, the stables, the coop and all of their millers’ tools. The women – all three – worried until they fainted, the sight was terrible – one big sea of fire, which grew as the wind spread the flames along thousands of cords of wood, which had been stacked in rows along the banks of the Daugava. The Hardelis family said their goodbyes in tears, for they had been left with no home.

We packed feverishly, and our home was suddenly full of soldiers, taking things here and there, and such anger fills your soul. I asked my daughter to boil tea and eggs, the cakes were out of the oven and we were ready to eat. I put water to boil to warm the children’s baths – and then Vera runs in, who was luckily visiting with us, and told us that shrapnel had just started falling on our side of the Daugava. I grabbed the children, half-dressed and not fed, not even dressed myself, and we ran away to the old castle, where our group was able to hide. The cannonfire was so strong, that even the windows trembled. Also there the soldiers came in and out, the wind blowing in, and my children were cold. Trūtiņa was able to eat, Dagmāriņa – asked for her pacifier (?) – where to get one? I went to the kitchen to the soldiers and asked them for tea and a grain of sugar. Again a commotion – in comes our Papa, red and sweating, agitated to the last straw, and told us that the servants unhooked the horses from the wagons that we needed to take the essentials with us. And so it is – everything needs to stay to be destroyed – we won’t have anything anymore, we who were used to all of life’s comforts.. the soldiers had been going through the packed boxes, tearing apart sheets and Dagiņa’s dresses to wrap their feet. They also loaded up the eggs, tea and cakes onto the table and eaten them in our place – what a terrible fate we have! Through no fault of one’s own people have to suffer so much, lose so much, that you have saved and kept for years. During this time, Father was able to get two horses for our carriage, we got in under the soldiers’ escort and drove off into the dark, towards an uncertain destiny.

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