Sixty-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 (again) 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.
If there is mention of a recognizable historical figure and event, I will provide a Wikipedia link so that you can read more about the events that Alise is describing.
There are two parts to this diary entry – both are below. It appears that Alise wrote two almost identical entries on this day, probably not realizing she’d already written, given all that was on her mind at the time.
February 11, 1918 (part 1)
Sunday morning. I rushed to finish all of my tasks and I’m getting ready to go to the prayer hall. My body feels like it is full of lead. The town is terrible with its piles of corpses. I also went to the German commander, to ask him to protect us from German soldiers ransacking us. They were all very nice and careful. After that I went to the prayer hall, where we were without a pastor, so everyone else prayed to God heartily, as we could we sad wives and children, and cried from the heart, and also prayed for those making our loved ones suffer, the Latvian riflemen, God forgive them, for they know not what they do!
As it turns out, if the Germans hadn’t stopped them, a few days later they would have come from the women and children under 16 as well, and strangled and shot us. We were already on the blacklist and punishment would have started soon, if the Germans hadn’t rescued us, but it was still too late for our husbands and fathers, who could lie by the dozens shot somewhere at the roadside by the vicious Latvian riflemen. Doesn’t this innocent blood cry out to the King of Kings?? And so it goes, day after day. And so they go after friend after friend, acquaintance after acquaintance. They are taken without saying their goodbyes, one after another, but the pain and tragedy continues and doesn’t stop for a moment. If you cannot bear the tortures placed upon you – you fall. Why are people’s lives worth so little? And so the days pass with painful questions and worries. How opaque how unclear life is. The fate of today’s people is insanity, you can feel it on your face as fears create wrinkles. People attack people, and so people flee from people. Minds are frightened, the heart has no peace.
February 11, 1918 (part 2).
I got up, feeling like my body was weighed down with lead. I did my housework and then went to town, because there is no peace at home. We were many sad wives and children at the prayer hall (we cannot use the church since its desecrators are still on display outside). One teacher prayed to God for our loved ones, who were taken away to an unknown and horrible fate, and our Papa among them, and I did not manage to give him any bread or anything, and that makes my heart ache. All of the pastors also taken away, only the teacher here who is preaching and prayed also for our evildoers: God forgive them, for they know not what they do!
The German orchestra was playing on the street, it has been a long time since we heard nice music like that. We also went to the cemetery to cry out our fears and sorrows, our thoughts with our loved ones, who may already be dead, whose graves we will never get to tend, we won’t be able to put down any flowers, and we will have to fight our children and food. Our hearts break – hearing all of the terrible stories, some of our loved ones have managed to escape, including Pastor Beldavs, who has gone grey and sick, even though he was like an oak in his best years. He was really saved by God’s word, when he was on the convoy, talking to the Latvian riflemen. I just want to cry, the world is full of so many horrors.