Latvians gather for Independence Day celebrations
The flag of red and white was flown and national songs were
sung as Latvian community in Bristol gathered this weekend for the first
official celebrations on Latvia's Independence Day - one of the most important
national holidays in Latvia.
Although Latvia's Independence
Day is traditionally celebrated on November 18, the festivities in Bristol already
kicked off on Saturday night as about 50 Latvian nationals got together in St.Werburghs
community centre to spend the evening in a patriotic mood while working through
plates of national delicacies like caraway cheese and cream-filled "Semla" buns
and washing it down with the famous Riga Black Balsam.
Bringing together people of
various age and backgrounds - from warehouse operatives to real estate
appraisers, this event was one of the first opportunities for many of the
Bristol-Living Latvians to learn about the lives of their fellow nationals. As one
of the organisers Vineta Pasparne admits, even though the city is home to
several hundreds of Latvian nationals, most of them haven't demonstrated
particular activity or involvement over the years.
Many of the celebrators who are now
proudly calling Bristol their home have been living in the city for the last 1,5-3 years, while for some it has been five years
Bristol's oldest Latvian couple who's lived in the city since 1950's.
Rasma and Arvids Sermulins, whose story has also been
featured in the MShed museum, were brought to Britain by the Second World War.
Currently living in St. Andrews, the couple met through a newspaper
advertisement and were married in a quiet ceremony St. Mary Redcliffe church. This year they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
According to Mrs Sermulins,
despite the different national mentalities, she has never found it particularly
difficult to fit into the city while she has noticed a few cultural differences
over the years: "The British are more reserved and won't pour out their hearts
to you, however, if I ever needed assistance they'd be always happy to help."
She also admits she's more used
to speaking English to both her children and grandchildren while also claiming
that one must not lose their cultural heritage. "You cannot live as 100% Latvian
here or you will never fit in but you also shouldn't lose the sense of national
belonging," she insists, "it's great that the Latvian community is finally
Latvia proclaimed its independence on November 18, 1918
shortly after World War I, however, it was occupied and annexed by the Soviet
Union and Nazi Germany during the Second World War and restored its
independence in 1991.