Thirty-fourth installment from the diary of my great-grandfather’s sister Alise, written during the First World War. When the diary starts, she is living just a few miles from the front lines of the Eastern Front, and is then forced to flee with her husband and two young daughters to her family’s house near Limbaži as the war moves even closer. Her third child, a son, was born there in February 1916. The family has now relocated to a home near Valmiera. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.
January 1, 1917
The new year has started with a big question mark. Many things must be decided this year, because they cannot go on any longer. On New Year’s Eve we were at church. It is a very holy and celebratory night to be in God’s house. At 12 midnight, the service ended with 12 rings of the church bell, ringing in the new year with its clanging sounds. How many worried and broken hearts were not in God’s house? How many sit alone and want to get peace from their pain? Ahead of us waits the terrible 3rd of January, where our provider has to again go before the commission, and it will decide our continuing fate.
The holidays passed full of loud and terribly bloody battles on the battlefield. Many who had headed towards the front lines with holiday gifts were left in Rīga with heavy hearts, giving their gifts to the injured, since the commanders of the front lines were in a heavy and busy battle with good results.
Someone writes: “The din of the cannons is terrible. Everyone feels frozen, nothing will catch on the hard soldiers’ coats. A person grows hard here – they keep longing and pain to themselves, because they cannot share it with anyone. The fallen are quiet, our riflemen sleeping soundly on the white snow cover. Soft snowflakes fall on them and we honour them with flowers.”
Many were buried in Rīga on December 28. The people’s funeral. Such a long line of coffins, the mind cannot comprehend, remembering the summer nights, the fog, when they celebrated by the lakes.
An eyewitness writes: “So strange the sigh of tears – I can almost hear how the rain fills the fir trees, the wind touches the wings of the birds.
“Oh you dear Latvian mothers, tonight you will have to cradle longing and dark hands, the most painful of touches.
“Oh you dear Latvian mothers, for whom will your gentle touches be? The dear holy Latvian land – gaining only earth on the graves.
“Slowly, slowly, lightly, lightly, the snow flies white and quiet: Sleep dear soul, you have not died in the war.”