Just this past week I read about Latvians in Latvia putting a stop to making Russian a national language. There were two points that were made that I’ll give the Latvian, and Latvian American, voters.
1. There is only one country in which Latvian is spoken and it would be a shame to dilute the language and not make it the main language of the country.
2. Latvians want all non citizens to pass a Latvian speaking and writing exam, even if they used to be citizens…of the former U.S.S.R.
Here is what I have a problem with, the stigma of “the Russians are coming!” I am part Russian and yes, grew up in the U.S.S.R. and I am damn proud of it. I am beyond lucky to have been brought up, and continue to, speaking Latvian and Russian with my parents. I think it’s a huge shame that kids who grow up in Riga, about 2-3 hours by car from the border of Russia, and don’t know how to speak the language…because it’s not a requirement anymore and isn’t spoken as often.
I think what bugs me beyond anything, is the animosity towards Russians. When my family and I first moved to the states, my parents found a great Latvian community/church for us to be a part of. It had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with making the transition easier. Well, during this transition, my dad had to pretend to speak Latvian fluently so that the Latvian Americans didn’t think we were Russian, god forbid. This has been the story of our lives in all three Latvian churches we’ve attended.
As a sidebar, this was also the story at a Russian Orthodox church school my brother and I attended in California. There were no Latvian communities around us so we stuck to the Russians. In this situation I pretended to be Russian Orthodox and picked out a Russian Orthodox name for myself in addition to my real name. When in Rome…
To get back to the Latvians. It’s not to say that we weren’t welcomed but I do have to say that since moving to Boston, as wonderful as all events have been, there have been some instances that really make you think twice about Latvian Americans who look down on us “LL’s” or “Latvian Latvians” as some call us.
When I tried to get into the last grade in the Latvian church school here I was told that I didn’t know how to write in Latvian, which is simply fascinating to me. Later, at a summer gathering I heard that the “high class” American Latvians had no desire to hang out with the LL’s because they have no issues with Russians and actually speak the language.
I just don’t get it. Us, LL’s, are who you “AL’s” want so desperately to be. You have never truly lived in Latvia. You may have spent a summer or semester but you don’t get it. And that’s not just American Latvians. Some true Latvians have this hatred for the Soviets.
Latvia HAD to side with someone during World War Two. So we could have either sided with the Germans or the Russians. Guess who we picked, the Russians. They didn’t occupy us, we chose to be under the Soviet flag. Lastly, if the Latvian’s are so worried about Latvian dying out with its people…perhaps they shouldn’t force those who were citizens give up their citizenship.
So yes, I am a Latvian from Latvia who is damn glad to speak Russian and I wouldn’t have it any other way. And those, are my two cents.
What did you do today?