As the sun was setting after the hot and dry day of May 12th, around 130 people gathered at Cubberley Hall of Stanford University to soak in Latvian culture. This was a celebration of the Republic of Latvia, one of the three small Baltic states bordering Russia that has managed to successfully rebuild a democratic state since it regained its independence in 1991, despite its turbulent past of war, deportations and half a century of occupation by the Soviet Union.
According to Liga Hoy, the Honorary Consul of Latvia, it is important not only to sustain the memory of the past but also of the future. She quoted George P. Schultz, former US Secretary of State and current distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford, that the US never recognized the Soviet annexation of the Baltic states and the flags of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were never removed from the State Department.
The highlight of the evening was Liga Hoy presenting the Latvian Cross of Recognition or Atzinibas Krusts, to Dr. Edward Anders for his highest acts of patriotism and devotion to support the social and cultural good of the state of Latvia in the world. Dr. Anders is Professor Emeritus of the University of Chicago and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Being a Latvian Jew who survived the Holocaust in Latvia, he has spent the last two decades recording the history of Latvia’s Jewish population before, during and after World War II. He is the author of Amidst the Latvians during the Holocaust and has helped complete the memorial wall for Jewish Holocaust and Gulag victims in his hometown of Liepaja.
Dr. Anders also shared his story in the film Controversial History (2010) by Latvian filmmakers Inara Kolmane and Uldis Neiburgs that was screened at the event. As Dr. Norman Naimark, the Robert and Florence McDonnell Professor in East European Studies at Stanford University, pointed out in the foreword to the movie, there are many diverging memories of World War II. The film conveyed the lives of three men with very different, yet mutually tragic, accounts from the war and the following Soviet/German occupations in Latvia. Dr. Janis Kreslins of National Library of Sweden gave a lecture on the culture of collecting in the Baltic.
According to him, history is often told as an idealized myth, a myth that has special meaning for people who believe that their history has not been accurately told. By making collections, individuals not only look back at and create a new past, but also look ahead to the future.
Ede Schank Tamkivi, Palo Alto