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Remembering June 14, 1941

June 14, 1941 was the day when thousands of Latvians, Estonians and Lithuanians were deported to Siberia by the occupying Soviet forces. You can see posts I’ve made in other years here, here and here.

I’ll be honest. I struggle with what to say on days like this. Part of me asks “How can something like this happen?” but atrocities like it continue to happen around the world on a daily basis, so it shouldn’t shock me the way it does. Human beings have a frightening capacity and drive for destroying other human beings. Thousands of years of human development, be it in science or ethics or technology, all seem to lead only to finding better ways to destroy one another. I’ve never understood it.

Then I ask a different question – “Why do things like this continue to happen?” I don’t think it is ignorance. We’re bombarded with images of atrocities on a daily basis, be they events that are currently taking place or be they historical events. You’d have to go out of your way to not know what pain and suffering there is in the world.

Perhaps that’s the problem. We see so much of it that we become desensitized to it. Removed from it. We feel helpless, and believe we can’t make a difference because the scale of suffering is so huge.

But you can make a difference. Maybe not to everyone who is suffering. But you can make a difference to one person, or one family. During the Second World War, thousands of people gave shelter to those who were being hunted by one army or another. Protected them from arrest, deportation, or worse. Risked their own lives to save others. Would the people they saved say that their protectors were unable to stop the suffering, because they only helped one person? No. They would say that that person made all the difference in the world.

I believe the same can be done today. Everyone can help one person who is suffering. Everyone can remember one person who suffered under tyranny, but who did not survive. And bit by bit, the world will become a better place.

Who are you going to remember today? And who are you going to help?

2 comments to Remembering June 14, 1941

  • Robert Marcus

    It was only after researching my family tree and reading a memoir by my godfather that I became aware of the tragedy of June 1941. I was amazed that before then I was completely unaware of what happened. I’ll leave a short snippet of my godfathers memoir.

    Quote:

    On the morning of June 14, 1941, I decided to visit my sisters. Alma’s and Emile’s families , who lived in separate homes on the parental estates, were some 4 kilometers from our home. I walked the distance and was surprised by an unusual traffic of trucks in the streets. Trucks manned with uniformed and armed squads, were driving in every direction. When I reached my destination, I met Emilie’s family and Alma’s two daughters Ilga and Astra, but Alma with her husband Karlis and two son’s, Girts and Janis, were abducted early that morning by one the military trucks, that I had observed underway. They had been given a half hour’s time to pack up, and had been deported to Siberia in box cars under the most miserable conditions. I have never seen them since. That particular night, from June 13 to June 14, 1941, tens of thousands of innocent people in Riga were abducted from their homes, irrespective of their age, physical condition or sex and spirited away in animal (box) cars. Only after the expulsion of the above mentioned , godless communists did their destination become known – Siberia. Such action were repeated several times later on, embracing some 200,000 people, The nation was in a state of shock. Next day at the academy in Jelgava, I met one of the top communist leaders of the academy and asked him for justification of such inhuman actions. He answered indifferently – “ There is no sacrifice too great for the happy future of communism !”

  • Shirley Coon

    I, too, was unaware of the specific dates and the vast plans of June 14,1941. My mother’s family immigrated from LV via DP camps to the USA in 1949. Last year I received information I had requested through ITS to attempt to find any relatives, or at least get closure as to their fates. On one of my grandfather’s forms, it states that his father & sister were sent to Siberia on June 14, 1941. My mother, her sister & 2 brothers knew nothing of this. They had never been allowed to visit relatives in their city of Jekabpils. Now, we understand why – the relatives were obviously on a “list” and my grandparents must have known some inside details on their supposed “crimes”. My mother and her family were incredible fortunate to have left when they did.

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