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.
The Economist, 22 May 2008: “Being burnt in effigy on the streets of Moscow by nationalist hoodlums must count as a kind of Oscar if you are a Latvian filmmaker whose aim is to expose modern Russia’s blindness to the criminal history of the Soviet Union. The ire of Young Russia’s protest outside the Latvian embassy this week was directed at Edvins Snore, whose film Soviet Story is the most powerful antidote yet to the sanitisation of the past.”
The musical Eslingena premiered in Toronto, Canada in 2004 at the 12th Latvian Song Festival. At the end, as Andris Straumanis reports, “the audience joined hands and, led by the actors and crew, sang again the closing song: ‘Vai tu vari mani tagad pateikt, Kas mums dzīvē notiks?‘ Can you tell me now what will become of us? It is a question that is as relevant now as it was in the Esslingen DP camp, and as it has been in much of Latvian history. We don’t know the answer. That’s why I cried.” Here is a parody of a Soviet attempt to convince Latvians in the DP camp to repatriate:
Latvian-American artist Markus Rotkovičs (Mark Rothko): “I’m not an abstractionist. I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.”