Category Archives: European Diaspora

Leaving Latvia

From 1944 to 1945, the approaching Soviet Army forced many Latvians to find escape routes to other countries. According to one source, about 250,000 people became refugees. Many got stuck in Courland, and some 50-60,000 were murdered by Soviet troops in Poland and Germany. After the war, approximately 6000 Latvians found refuge in Sweden, 120,00 in West Germany, 3000 in Austria and 2000 in Denmark. In later years, Latvian emigration spread to the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries. Some succumbed to forced repatriation by the Soviets; most expected to voluntarily return once Latvia was free, though that rarely occurred.

An Oral History

The following is an interview with 83-year-old Mirdza Balas, a librarian in the Sonoma County system. She drove the bookmobile and subsequently became manager of Sebastopol branch, from which she retired in 1989. Balas relates her memories of growing up in Latvia before and during World War II and moving through Europe as a displaced person before she came to the United States in 1957.