The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia Association, with the municipal council of Zedelgem in Belgium, have created the memorial – “Monument to freedom”, dedicated to Latvian Legionnaires, who did not lose faith in freedom for the Latvian State, during the winter of 1945 to 1946 when they were held in Zedelgem prisoner of war camp. The official opening of the monument will be held on Sunday 23 September at 10:30, in “Brivibaplein” (Freedom Square), in Zedelgem
The monument will be opened by the Mayor of Zedelgem Annick Vermeulen, the Ambassador of Latvia to Belgium Ilze Rūse, and Patrick Arnou, the representative for historic heritage in Zedelgem council, and Valters Nollendorfs, Chairman of the Board of the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (OMB).
The idea to make a monument first appeared, in 2014, when the museum’s film group, with two former legionnaires, visited Zedelgem to shoot footage of the prison camp for the documentary Zedelgem. In turn, Zedelgem municipal council was interested to learn more about the history of the prison camp, therefore a cooperation agreement was made with the museum to create the memorial.
In 2017, the museum organised a competition for sculptors to design a monument. A joint jury from Latvia and Belgium concluded that Kristaps Gulbis’ design ‘Latvian Beehive’ was the best. When talking about his design, Gulbis said: “In Zedelgem camp there were around 12,000 Latvian soldiers. This is equivalent to the number of bees in a hive. My idea is to unite in this monument the common European values and symbolic language understood by all Europeans with something special and visually characteristic only to Latvia. The Latvian bee colony in Belgium. The bee colony is a nation. The hive is their state with its own army, law and order. Bees are peaceful. They do not attack of their own accord. They sting only when they feel threatened. They defend, fight and die for their hive, colony and FREEDOM."
The monument can be found in a new square, in a new part of town, which has been given the name “Brivibaplein” — “Freedom Square”, using the Latvian word for freedom. It is located approximately three kilometres from the former prison camp. The town has decided that, in the future, they will also open the remains of the camp barracks, where visitors will be able to learn about the story of Latvian Legionnaires.
The cost of creating the monument is 100 000 EUR, half of which has been covered by Zedelgem municipal council, and half by the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. For over a year the museum has been collecting donations for this purpose. For the required 50,000 EUR, 133 donations have been received, totalling 40,876 EUR. The museum is very grateful to all the donors and invites others to join. For donations of over 100 EUR, or the equivalent in another currency, the donor will receive a bronze bee pin.
Here you can see all who have donated to the museum as of 10 September 2018*:
A and A Grigulis, Aija Ebdene, Aija Sedlak, Aija and Jānis Stambulis, Aina Rozenbergs, Aina and Māris Kučers, Aivars Saulītis, Alberts Cinis, Aldis J. Birzulis, Andis Graudiņš, Andris and Biruta Sprūds, Anita and Graham Anderson, Arnolds Spārniņš, Arnolds and Giseline Stigners, Arnolds Zubeckis, Artis Pabriks, Astra Kronīte, Astrīda Linde, Astrīda Medne, Ausma Zikmanis, Belgian Latv. Ev. Luter. Church in Brussels, Biruta Kelley, Brigita Pētersone, Dace Ķezbers, Daugavas Vanagi Latvijā, Daugavas Vanagu Adelaides nodaļa, Daugavas Vanagu ASV delegātu Sapulce, Denys Hendrik Helderweirt, Dr. Maksims Strunskis, DV apvienība Klīvlandē, DV ASV valde, DV Austrālijas valde, DV Hamiltonas nodaļas vanadzes Kanādā, DV Kanādas Valde, DV Kanberas nodaļa Austrālijā, DV Melburnas nodaļa, DV Pertas nodaļa Austrālijā, DV Sidnejas nodaļa, DV Toronto nodaļas vanadzes, Dzintra Bungs, Edgars Bērziņš, Edvīns Upītis, Egits Timermanis, Ēriks Krūmiņš, Gatis and Minjona Plūme, Genevieve Wittmann, George Bērziņš, Gerolds Luss-Lūsis, Ginta Vanaga, Gunārs Freimanis, Gunda Luss, Gunta Simsons, Hamiltonas DV vanadžu kopa Kanādā, Ieva Liepkaula and Modris Morozovs, Ieva and Joachim Suermann, Ilgmārs Lesītis, Ilma Celmiņš, Ilze Ozoliņa – Bērziņa, Imants Balodis, Ināra Kalniņš, Ināra and Valdis Graudiņš, Inese Erdmanis, Inese Auziņa Smith, Inese Birzniece, Inese Drēziņa, Irēne and Pauls Lazda, Ivars Švānfelds, Janīna Začeste, Jāna Andersone, Jānis Kažociņš, Jānis Sīlis, Jānis and Anna Millers, Jānis and Ilga Priedkalns, Jānis and Inese Ronis, Jānis Zeltiņš, Juris Greste, Juris Sils, Juris and Margita Jakovics, Klāvs and Edīte Bērziņš, Kristīne Saulīte, Laima Dingley, Lija Andersone, Lilija Ziverts, Lilita Kelle, Līga and Wolfhart Schubach, Maija Sinka, Maija and Vilnis Strēlnieks, Michael and Kathy Marzano, Mirdza Eglītis, Mirdza Gratz, Pelēcis family, Pēteris Bumbieris, Pēteris Simsons, Raitis Ābelnieks, Rasma Cipule, Rihards Pētersons, Rita Drone, Rīgas Evanģēliskā draudze, Rota Otto, Sandra Sīpols Kronītis, Sarmīte Elerte, Selga V. Petersons, Sidnejas Latviešu biedrība, Silvija Rutenbergs, Simon Puriņš, Tālis Burkēvics, Uldis Kronītis, Undīne Pabriks-Bollow, Valda Zemesarājs, Valdis Bērziņš, Valters Nollendorfs, Valters Nollendorfs and Aija Ebdene, Velta Purmalis, Vija Zars, Visvaris and Ausma Ģiga, Vita Gaiķe, Vita Kristovska, Vitauts and Māra Beldavs, Vitālijs Bucens, Zigfrīds and Paulīne Zadvinskis, Žanis Mediķis
*The donors’ names have been ordered alphabetically