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Yesterday Latvia celebrated 30 years of freedom from occupation by Soviet communist forces. That seems like yesterday I hear some of you say.

1991 was the year Terminator 2 hit the screens; the Hubble telescope launched; John Grisham’s ‘The Firm’ published; Soviet forces stormed Vilnius in response to the Singing Revolution; and Latvians celebrated in the streets of Riga when the iron grip was finally broken.

My first awareness of Latvia was a single stamp in an album given to me by my grandmother as a child.

My interest in Latvia commenced in 2013 when I met Peter Jirgens, a fellow cyclist whose father immigrated to Australia after WW2. His story was so compelling, I couldn’t resist the urge to publish it.

‘Out of Latvia’ has resulted in connecting with Latvians living internationally and within Australia. Interest in Peter’s story brought together a group of friends who cycled the Latvian countryside in 2018 and celebrated the launch of the book at Riga Central library with an overflowing audience of locals and expats.

Our visit coincided with the Festival of Song and Dance, held every 5 years, when Latvians from every part of the country and the world, join together to sing and dance in the streets and public places. The joyful celebration of culture and freedom in costumes distinctive of their region, flowers in abundance, mass choirs, will stay with me forever.

Yet the Soviet shadow remains for many older Latvians who suffered under their brutal regime.



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