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WW1 Diary – December 31, 1917

Fifty-third 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.

December 31, 1917

We all sat together in the warm dining room of Savariņi, and thought about the past year. Many horrors, many pains, it brought us many indescribable things. Our land, our homeland is living through a huge and horrible tragedy. Not only the land but the people, suffering through everything the war has to throw at them. More than three years of war behind us, but the future is so foggy, that it is impossible to see what lies ahead.

The revolution is in full swing. More and more estates and their inventory are being confiscated. They are taking the last of what they can from the owners. Still the “Bolsheviks” promises are not being met – that has been the only happiness – one can hope and pray. Who will return what has been stolen? Who will fix the destroyed livelihoods? Now that is the life, that we must live!

Days are overcast – and the heart is longing for sun. There is no end to the tears, no end, they cry whether it is evening or morning, a mother cries at the side of a bed, the orphan cries waking up. There is no end to the tears, no end, they cry whether it is evening or morning, the hermit in the cave cries, as does the refugee wandering in foreign lands. We are its witnesses, and also its victims.

The most painful thing is that we are suffering from the hands of our own people, our own army. The same army, that should be protecting peaceful citizens, is the army that is stealing and destroying everything. Hayfields, gardens, homes, they are in such a state that it is as if the enemy has come marching through, leaving a trail of destruction. The heart is brave – but we feel powerless against the power of the thieves. If it would be possible, if there would be hope to get restitution from the taxation lists in some way, but it would not be the type of restitution with which one could save oneself from the destruction and famine.

This whole time we have been controlled by illusions. Political waves have stirred up into foam, on which people have died for slogans. All of the power to worker-soldier councils, and they promised us immediate peace, bread and land. How could we not want peace, after more than three years of spilled blood, for nothing. How could we not want bread, if there is no longer anything to eat? But it seems like none of these people have the ability to fulfill these promises, since they can’t even do it for themselves. The march of Titans goes on. Now the lives of people and the shadows of rulers are nothing. Famine destroys people’s minds and crushes them, like a ball of wax in a warm room. Lenin promises that wagons full of bread are ready, that peace is at the end of the rope… Who still has what? Mr Comrade, he breaks and steals. How many people have no eyes with which to cry, or painful sorrows due to famine. And it is true, there is not much more to take, only horrible crimes are left.

WW1 Diary – December 27, 1917

Fifty-third 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.

December 27, 1917

Yesterday we celebrated cousin “Lullija’s” wedding. Despite her husband’s flirting, she got an honest and good husband. He was a soldier only for a moment, and officers were having a terrible time of it. Stripped of ranks, lowered salaries, they are not respected. The strongest have been put in prisons or shot. A time of madness! The wedding was cozy and we did not feel anything of the impeding famine.

WW1 Diary – December 25, 1917

Fifty-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.

December 25, 1917

Christmas is here! The angels provided for us once again and sent us a tree with many presents. The tree was very bright and the mood was good. The children were dears, pleasing us with their songs. Dagiņa is three years old and she sang “O Come Little Children” so beautifully. Our three old ladies showered us and the children with gifts. We discussed what kind of conditions we’ve celebrated Christmas in in different years, and who knows where it will be next? Not here, we hope!

WW1 Diary – December 12, 1917

Fifty-first 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.

December 12, 1917

The whole country is shaken by the feverish firestorm of war, everything is topsy-turvy, one after another… The civil war is raging in its full insanity… the bloody events indescribable. Newspapers are full of horrible news. Pastors are holding services in their homes, for churches are still being used for rallies. Listening to the services, my heart is full of fear, hearing what the pastor is saying about famine, plague and the end of the world. It is possible, that that which I feared as a child will come to pass.

The pastor says, that for the Christian person, the Judgement will come as a spring breeze, but for the irreligious, it will scare them like a cold fall wind, when one does not have warm clothes. Gangs are going around and taking away the estates, along with the movable and immovable property. Even we were thrown out of our warm nest, taking from us our work and bread for no reason. Now we are living in our landlady’s second estate, where life is still comfortable and warm, despite everything that has happened. We still have an apartment and support for free until January 1st. Then our money will melt away, because everything is so expensive. Meat costs 350 kopecks, butter 700 rubles, milk is 80 kopecks a quart, soap is 280 kopecks, and so on.

Luckily Papa has a new job, as the supervisor of the Crown horses, which are being brought to us and then sold. His salary is 400 rubles per month. Horses and carts are being demobilized, and soldiers are leaving their positions in disarray, and heading home, for those who still have a home. Who will save us from the destruction and terror? Some are hoping for Lenin, the Bolshevik’s war leader, who is creating all sorts of confusion with Trotsky, and who are believed and followed by half the army. Others are hoping for Kaledin, the leader of the Cossacks, who wants to save Russia, and is fighting the “Bolshevik” battalions, who have been joined by our irrational Latvian “free riflemen”. Others are still hoping and longing for the Germans, wishing that they would come and deliver us from the horrible chaos, looming famine and destruction. My house and I will trust in God, who has been blessing aDend helping us up to now. He will continue to keep us and protect us. Who is sad, who is sorrowful – Jesus is standing next to us…

Tombstone Tuesday - Karlīne Slēgere, 1856-1880

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

DSC02672_limbazi

Photo taken by me, August 2014. Click to enlarge.

Top Inscription: “Še dus Dieva mierā” (Here in God’s peace rests)

Name: Karlīne Slēgere, born 1856, died 1880.

Location: Jūras ielas kapi, Limbaži

Tombstone Tuesday – Miķelis and Anna Stegers

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

DSC02696_limbazi

Photo taken by me, August 2014. Click to enlarge.

Top Inscription: “Svētīgie sirdsskaidrie, jo tie Dievu redzēs” (“The holy and pure of heart, for they will see God”)

Names: Miķelis Stegers, born October 7, 1852, died February 26, 1932; Anna Stegers, born December 18, 1852, died February 6, 1933

Location: Jūras ielas kapi, Limbaži

Tombstone Tuesday – Antons Maurītis, 1883-1919

In this series, I am providing pictures of tombstones from Latvian cemeteries, all with death dates prior to 1945. I do not have any further information on the people mentioned.

DSC02704_limbazi

Photo taken by me, August 2014. Click to enlarge.

Name: Antons Maurītis, born September 27, 1883; died October 29, 1919

Location: Jūras ielas kapi, Limbaži

WW1 Diary – November 10, 1917

Fiftieth 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.

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.

November 10, 1917

The bloody civil war is raging. There is news about the fallen and injured, these numbers are huge. Other countries are calling Russia a “[unintelligble – but something not nice]” country, where everything is torn apart and destroyed. One thinks that “Russian” will be a shameful and curse word for everyone for a long time. All of the diplomats from other countries have left Petrograd. It is possible that soon all of the representatives of the country’s culture will leave Russia, for they have nothing to offer these barbarians. Only Wilhelm’s [NB: German Kaiser] military power is longing for Russia and maybe soon they will reap the fruits that the Bolsheviks have sown while repressing the sad, betrayed and shamed country.

WW1 Diary – November 1, 1917

Forty-ninth 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.

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.

November 1, 1917

Everything is going topsy turvy. Latvian riflemen have returned from the front, arrested their officers, broken open Valmiera church and are holding rallies there. They’ve burned all of the arriving newspapers at the station. Each rumour is more outlandish than the next. Petrograd is fully in the hands of the Bolsheviks. And all of their sheep in the towns. Battles are not happening, the enemy is waiting, when the real civil war will start in Russia, and then he will come and bring order.

In Loving Memory: A Special 52 Ancestors Post

This is my Week #39 52 Ancestors post, and it is dedicated to a very recent ancestor of mine, my grandmother Aina Margrieta Līcīte, married name France, who passed away yesterday at the age of 95.

Aina Margrieta (Līcīte) France

October 19, 1919 – October 29, 2014

Passport photo of Aina Līcīte, c. 1947

Aina Margrieta Līcīte was born on October 19, 1919 to parents Brencis Līcītis and Jūle, maiden name Štelmahers. Her older sister, Marta (who passed away four years ago, you can read my memorial post dedicated to her here), was eight years old at the time.

However, the precise place of her birth is shrouded in mystery. All of her later documentation states that she was born in Krustpils, Latvia, and her sister Marta also confirms this. However, given the circumstances of the time period, I have my doubts about the veracity of this statement. First of all, the registry office archives were not able to supply me with her birth record – it did not exist in the otherwise fairly complete (I’m given to understand) registers of Krustpils. Then you must consider that while the First World War ended in 1918, the Russian Civil War and the concurrent Latvian War of Independence, with its multiple opposing armies, were still raging at the time of Aina’s birth. Not only were they still going on in the abstract sense of “somewhere”, they were going on in a very real sense of right around where she is purported to have been born. The Free Latvian forces had taken the town of Krustpils on June 5, 1919, but in October – when Aina was born – they were still battling the Reds in Līvāni -barely 20 kilometres to the southeast – and the rest of Latgale province.

Given that I know that Aina’s parents and sister were living near Rzhev, Russia, during the First World War, a fact I know both from Marta’s stories and documentary evidence, and the fact that most Latvian First World War refugees did not return until 1920 at the earliest because of the ongoing conflicts, I think it is highly unlikely that my great-grandfather Brencis brought his pregnant wife and young daughter back to their hometown so that their daughter could be born there. I think it is much more likely that Aina was born near Rzhev, and the family returned in 1920-1921. I am currently trying to confirm this with refugee registers.

Why lie about her place of birth? It was not unusual for children to be born outside of Latvia during this time period, so many Latvian children born in that era are listed as being born in Russia. But at the same time, they may have thought that the family would have problems getting their young daughter Latvian citizenship since she was born outside of Latvia. I haven’t ever seen this be a problem, but they may have been worried nonetheless, and thus lied about it. With no documents to contradict them, then they could easily continue telling that story. But I am intent on finding the truth of the matter.

Regardless of her place of birth, Aina grew up in Krustpils, attending school there, where she got average-to-good grades in all subjects. She had top marks for behaviour, but lower ones for paying attention – I know where I get my classroom inattentiveness from then! She also participated in some theatrical productions. In this photo, Aina is in the center of the first row.

Aina graduated from Jēkabpils State Gymnasium in 1938. She had “good” or “very good” grades in all subjects. After this completion of high school, she left her family home of Krustpils and moved to Rīga to attend nursing school, which she completed in 1941. Finding employment as a nurse in the midst of war was not a difficult task – and it was through this occupation that she was able to make it out of Latvia. Along with her sister Marta, who was a nurse’s aide, they made it out of Latvia to Poland, and then by ship from Gdansk to Germany and Denmark. When they arrived in the Displaced Persons camps, they did not have everything that they had brought out of Latvia with them – just the backpacks they were carrying. Their other luggage had been lost on a different ship that had been sunk by the Allied forces.

In the Displaced Persons camps in Denmark, probably at Gurrehus, Aina met her future husband Aleksandrs Francis, who was the Latvian leader at the camp, despite only being 25 years old. Eventually the refugees moved to Copenhagen, where Aina worked at as a dressmaker at Modepalæet on Osterbrogade for two years, until the opportunity finally came for the sisters to emigrate to Canada in the summer of 1949.

When Aina arrived in Canada, she had a work contract with the Toronto Hospital and lived in the Nurses’ Residence in Weston. Once this one year contract was over, she worked for the Convalescent Centre at the Weston Sanatorium. In this same year, she married Aleksandrs Francis on May 24, 1950, in Toronto.

A few years after the birth of their daughter in 1951, Aina and Aleksandrs moved to Saint Catherine’s, where they built their own home – scandalously placing their living room in the rear of the home, overlooking their beautiful garden, instead of at the front, where nosy neighbours would have preferred to see it. Aina and Aleksandrs became Canadian citizens in 1957. In addition to family trips to Mexico, the family also acquired a cottage in northern Ontario, where they would spend time in the summer.

Aleksandrs died suddenly in 1983, leaving Aina a widow. It would be another thirty-one years until she would join him in the great beyond.

I was born in 1984, and I have all sorts of memories of my grandmother from my childhood. I remember visiting her in Saint Catherine’s, where we’d play tennis with foam balls in her hallway. I remember going to the German store in Hamilton to buy Central/Eastern European Christmas goodies. I remember sitting on the windowsill of our house up on the hill, waiting and watching for my grandmother’s blue VW Beetle coming up the road, signalling that she and her sister were coming to visit.

When I was nine years old, they moved up from Saint Catherine’s to live in the same town as my parents and I, living just down the street. Marta moved to a nursing home after breaking her hip, and Aina moved there as well a few years later. Marta passed away in 2010. Aina had been getting weaker over the past few years, though this year she did improve substantially for a period of time. The last time I was able to visit, we were even able to take her outside in the wheelchair. But then the end came, and like her sister, she slipped peacefully into the eternal sleep.

Aina is survived by her daughter, son-in-law and granddaugther (me).

“Vediet mani dziedādami, Nevediet raudādami; Lai iet mana dvēselīte, Pie Dieviņa dziedādama.”
Latvian folksong (daina): “Escort me while singing, not while crying; May my soul go, to God while singing.”