Forty-second 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.

August 31, 1917

It’s fall. Fall in the hills, valleys, fall also dwells in the heart. I’m sad that I did not bring my diary when we fled to the seminary, there are all sorts of crazy events that I have not been able to describe. Now we returned home with our belongings, and the war is right at our doorstep. Many are fleeing, to wherever each person thinks it might be safe. The announcements are varied – don’t flee, for if you flee into the unknown, you will die of starvation. RÄ«ga has fallen. After a year of battles across the Daugava, RÄ«ga has fallen and the Germans are already in Sigulda and at the LÄ«gatne river. We are visited by “zeppelins”, who drop bombs, which create panic among the residents, and terrible fear. It is a new era knocking on Latvia’s door, with cannons and zeppelins’ bombs. Crazy events are expected, so big and terrible that the heart races. Soon Latvia’s fate will be decided…

Vidzeme’s roads are again full with processions of refugees, full of worry and long faces. They’ve stayed over even at our house. They are trouble for peaceful residents, for they destroy and take what they can. When asking a refugee, why they fled, they respond – one can’t live in a pile of ruins. And so they burn, steal, destroy, at will. Even our old LÄ“durga has been destroyed, robbed, the residents fleeing into forest homes. Dagiņa’s godmother was robbed of all of her money, her home emptied. You cannot even enter LÄ“durga without permission anymore. And so it is in all of the regions closest to the front, the same fate. It is not possible to describe all of the horrible events, I’d fill all of these white pages.

Epidemics are rife, and Death is cutting a wide swath through Valmiera and the area, taking people in huge numbers. Most deaths are from dysentry, young people. Epidemics grew from famine. There is a shortage of food. You cannot buy bread anywhere, and forget about anything else. A pound of butter costs 475 kopecks, a quart of milk 40 kopecks, and so on. Thank God that we still have enough, and that huge thefts have not occured. Still, the two months of strikes were difficult, when we were tormented and we weren’t allowed to take anything that belonged to us. We had to steal our own property and buy it. I was not even allowed to pick a leaf of the parsley I planted myself in the garden without shouts from the farmhands to not go in their garden, this has made their backs soft.

They were crazy times. Worker-soldier committees and councils, meetings and rallies, sedition and swearing, I’m surprised that we are still alive. Madness! Now all of the organizations have fallen apart, a line has been drawn through all of their achievements, and good!!! Most of them have been sent to the front, all of the world-changers and destroyers.

WW1 Diary – August 31, 1917
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