Fortieth 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, and the Russian Revolution is in full swing. For more background, see here, and click on the tag “diary entries” to see all of the entries that I have posted.
April 18, 1917
Apparently it is *prohibited* to work hard on a workday. Leaflets are seen everywhere, the town is decorated with red flags. People wearing red ribbons are also everywhere, singing and dancing about the new “Freedom celebration”. What kind of good they will bring us is still a big question. All sorts of meetings, rallies and disagreements. Socialist revolutionaries want to take everyone’s homes, land and belongings, without compensation, and to divide them up so everyone gets their share. Social-democrats want to work against such foolish notions and soon we can expect a civil war amongst brothers…
Even though it is only a few days until Jurģi [NB: Traditional Latvian spring celebration], the weather is still cold, in the mornings only about 5 degrees, and the land is covered with a thick layer of snow. The heart sorrows, that in the place of greenery and bird-cherry flowers, there is still white snow, that does not let anything to blossom or grow.
At the beginning of the war, no one had experienced a summer that hot. Day after day, the sun traveled across the sky like a huge burning coal. It was sad to see the fields, which in May rippled so beautifully and freshly green, turn to yellow and then brown as if burned, and finally it looked like they were crumbling to dust. The people were waiting for rain. Clouds formed, but then scattered and the sun was red, blazing across the withered land. I remember, how the nights were dry – completely without dew, when we opened the window at night for some cool air, but instead the room filled with heavy smoke, for all of the forests were burning. They burned not only for one or two days, but for months. Even the flocks of bats and dragonflies raised the alarm, as in every case, that defies explanation.
Then one day, July 19, 1914, right around lunchtime – the hot breath of the land, quiet forests, empty roads and a lonely rider on a big horse, that belonged to our doctor, where was he going in such a hurry? What kind of horrible news is he carrying? At once I remembered the alarming news in the papers. Mobilization, war – and now that war has not yet ended, that war of horror, blood and so many terrible events. Even though the end might be soon, these horrible fateful days, where countries and thrones hang in the balance… and the weather is cold, very cold, compared to the beginning.