EXHIBITION ... NOT FOR EVER

15.06.2015 - 18.11.2015

LEAVING LATVIA 1944–1945

In the summer of 1944, military forces of the Soviet Union invaded Nazi Germany occupied Latvia. This was the second Soviet invasion of Latvia; the first one was in 1940. It prompted thousands of Latvians to seek shelter abroad. By the end of the Second World War in Europe (May 1945) about 200 000 inhabitants had left Latvia. They were refugees, evacuees, forced labourers, concentration camp inmates and soldiers. They sought refuge in Germany, Sweden and German occupied territories. Many perished in concentration camps and as a result of the war.

 

The Pulsts family – father Augusts, mother Marija, daughters Biruta and Ērika on the confirmation day of the older sister Biruta in Riga 2 May 1943.

Biruta Pulsts: “1944, 16 October, Monday, 11.05. We are on a ship. Now at last we are on the way to our second great “homeland”. My feelings are quite absurd, but, if the whole hullabaloo has started, then at least for the time being I will try to stay afloat. I am very fearful of the job issue. But maybe by chance that question will resolve itself. Nonetheless, the situation is terrible. [...] And a German here on board began to spout forth fearful speculations about our fate - that we would never get back. But we must return! In the meantime the land of our childhood remains here, everything remains here, everything. And how will we wander around in Germany. Altogether, we know too little about our future.”

The sisters Biruta and Ērika Pulsts left Latvia on 16 October 1944. Their parents stayed in Latvia. On 21 October Biruta and Ērika arrived in Schneidemühl (now Piła, Poland). They went to Salzburg in Austria, then in November they travelled to Augsburg, Germany, where they worked in the Nagler und Sohn weaving-mill until April 1945.

Travelling permit issued to Biruta and Ērika Pulsts by the Schneidemühl Labour Administration on 24 October 1944 to go by train to Salzburg.

The registration form of Biruta and Ērika Pulsts for the police in Augsburg on 11 November 1944.

DISPLACED PERSONS (DP) IN POSTWAR EUROPE

Biruta Pulsts: “1945, 8 May, Tuesday, at 19.32. Peace, peace in the world. Can that be true? At least the war in Europe is over. [...] Apparently, America has issued an ultimatum to Russia – in 10 days Russia must decide whether to withdraw its forces to the 1939 borders or start a war with America. That would mean that our country would be free again. Am I really allowed to hope for such a wonderful future?”

 

After the Second World War most of the Latvian refugees were designated as Displaced Persons (DP) and about 120 000 Latvians lived in DP camps in West Germany, Denmark and Austria. They did not yield to Soviet efforts to persuade them to return to Soviet occupied Latvia but chose to stay in exile. The Latvians who were in the Soviet administered areas of Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia and Austria were forced to return to Soviet Latvia.

Displaced Person camp in Haunstetten, Germany. In the second half of the 1940s there were nearly three hundred camps in West Germany for DPs from Eastern Europe

Young Latvian refugees in a DP camp in Germany during the second half of the 1940s.

In June 1945 Biruta and Ērika Pulsts moved to the Haunstetten DP camp in Augsburg in the US zone of Germany. The sisters became nurse’s aids and worked in a hospital in Augsburg. In 1959 Ērika emigrated to Canada. Biruta stayed in Germany and lived in Ludwigsfeld in Munich together with other former DPs from Soviet occupied countries – Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, Czechs, Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Romanians, Hungarians, Kalmyks, Kazakhs, who had found a second home in West Germany.

Identity Certificate issued to Biruta Pulsts on 8 November 1945 by the Displaced Persons Center in Augsburg.

Questionnaire of the Military Government of Germany about Biruta Pulsts.

Certificate of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) issued on 30 June 1947 in Augsburg attesting that Biruta Pulsts has successfully passed the examinations which authorize her to work as a Nurse’s Aide in DP camps and UNRRA hospitals in the US zone of Germany.

Biruta Pulsts in a DP convalescent home in West Germany in 1948–1951.

Employment card issued to Biruta Pulsts by the International Refugee Organization (IRO) on 17 September 1951.

Biruta Laar and Ērika Pulsts in Germany, 1999.

Biruta Laar (nee Pulsts, 1924, Riga–2003, Munich)
Father Augusts Pulsts (1888–1964) – clerk of the Latvian Railway, mother Marija (nee Bērziņš, 1891–1975), sister Ērika (1925–2002) – nurse.
In 1943 graduated from the Riga City 2nd gymnasium. From May 1943 to September 1944 Biruta worked as a clerk and controller for the German Reich Railway in Riga. In September 1944 together with her sister Ērika fled from Riga through Liepāja, Schneidemühl and Salzburg to Augsburg in Germany.
November 1944 – April 1945 weaver in the Nagler & Sohn Fabrik
July 1945 – March 1947 office worker UNRRA in Augsburg
1947 April – December 1947 Nurse’s Aide in the Servatius Stift hospital of Augsburg
1947 finished Nurse’s Aide courses
October 1951 – January 1952 Secretary of War Relief Services in Munich

Ērika Pulsts (1925, Riga –2002, Munich)
November 1944 - April 1945 weaver Nagler & Sohn Fabrik weaving-mill
1946- 1948 Nurse’s Aide courses and employment as nurse’s Aid in the Servatius Stift hospital in Augsburg
March 1948 – 1951 nursing school in Bern, Switzerland
In 1951 completes psychiatric nurse’s examination
1951 or 1952, 8 months work in the Bethlem Royal Hospital in Beckenham, UK
1952 or 1953 work in Switzerland
On 18 May 1955 receives the diploma for "General nursing care" in Switzerland
1959 emigrates to Canada, where she worked as a nurse until 1969
On 27 May 1965 obtained Canadian citizenship
December 1969 moved to Munich, Germany, worked as a nurse
On 23 April 1993 recovered Latvian citizenship

Exhibits from: private collection of Kalle Laar, Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, http://www.dpalbums.lv/
Audio Recording: Documentary radio story “... It is not for life“ Latvian Radio LR1, Riga: 14 June 2012 Production: SWR2 / Latvian Radio, Kalle Laar 2012 supported by the “Robert Bosch Stiftung im Rahmen des Förderprogramms ‘Grenzgänger’"
Translators: Gundega Michele (English), Evita Rukke (from German)
Historical events are presented in more detail in the interactive multimedia installations "Latvians in the world 1944–1991" - "Leaving Latvia 1944–1945" and "Latvians in Europe 1945–1951”, which visitors can see in the Museum’s temporary quarters at Raiņa bulvāris 7, Riga.