Bringing Out the Great-Grandfathers, Part 1 (updated)

How he survived the first Soviet occupation, from 1940 to 1941, I don’t know, but as far as I’m aware he stayed in his position as justice of the peace until late 1944, when he fled Latvia with his wife, daughter and son-in-law. His daughter Zenta had married my grandfather Juris Celmiņš on October 9, 1943.

The family lived in Displaced Persons camps in northern Germany, including Camp Noor near Eckenforde. They came to Canada in 1949, and after moving about through Ontario and Quebec for a few years due to his son-in-law’s work, they settled in Toronto in 1955.

Zenta died in 1959 of lung cancer, leaving her husband with three young children (he would later remarry). Augusts’ wife Lilija died on July 22, 1968, and Augusts died in Toronto on September 19 of the same year, a week after his 70th birthday. His death was reported in many Latvian emigre newspapers, and he appears in a book about Latgalian politicians.

Augusts’ life is a prime example of the opportunities that independent Latvia afforded the native Latvian population – while Augusts came from a poor family of peasant stock, he was able to rise much higher in society through his education and hard work. In this time period, it appears hard work mattered more than formal education – I very much doubt that anyone would be able to become a justice of the peace these days just through hard work if they didn’t have that formal piece of paper.

Next great-grandfather: Arvīds Vilhelms Francis. Coming soon!

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