One of the questions asked by the International Refugee Organization of people displaced by WWII was “Do you wish to return to your country of former residence?” For most Latvians, the answer was no. Not because they did not wish to return home, but because “home” was now occupied and controlled by communist Russia, a regime they had seen destroy their families and friends, more merciless than the German Nazi’s had been. Most certainly a resistance fighter like Karlis Vinakmens, or a German collaborator like his little brother Fricis, could not imagine returning home, as the Soviets would have persecuted them immediately, likely with fatal results. The Akerfelds and Ziverts families had seen brothers and uncles, along with their wives and children heartlessly arrested for no good reason, to be deported to Siberia and die slowly of exposure.
Most Latvian families wished to immigrate to Canada, the USA, Australia, and even Argentina is recorded on one IRO application I’ve seen. It seems they were not sure where to go, did not care, so long as it was not part of communist USSR.
“Do you wish to return to your country of former residence?” – “Nein” (No)
“If not, why?” – “Weil heimat eisenheim von USSR okkupier. Herscht kommunistische diktatur und terror. Ein bruder getoete und andere nach sibierien deportien” (Because my home country is occupied by the USSR. The government is a communist dictatorship. One brother was killed and nother was deported to Siberia)
Every one of my family members’ IRO applications says the same things: Arvids Akerfelds’ simply states “Political Reasons”, Fricis Vinakmens’ says “I do not like to live under present communist regime”.
After being caught between two great warring world powers in WWII, Latvia had held out hope that the Allied victory would mean the USSR agreeing to recognize their sovereignty. They had hoped that the Allies would restore free independant Latvia. This was not the case, for Latvia and other Soviet-occupied countries (Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Lithuania, Estonia, etc) who would remain under Soviet control until the late 1980′s and early 1990′s.
The headstone of my grandparents Arvids and Rasma. Located in Woodland Cemetery, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. This headstone was not put into place until Rasma’s death in 2007. Another smaller marker at the foot of the plot was installed when Arvids died, 25 years earlier in 1982. I did not take a picture of Arvids’ smaller stone, although I suppose I should have and will in the near future! Karlis Vinakmens’ favoured oak leaves are carved at the top corners, and their marriage date is featured on the intertwined rings in the middle. The rest is self-explanatory.
A search for “Akerfeld” at this collection of historical Latvian periodicals (here: http://www.periodika.lv) will yield two results, both regarding Martins Akerfelds (b. 1902 in Tomsk), son of Jekabs (Martins is my great-great uncle). Note that if you are curious as to why I searched for “Akerfeld” and not “Akerfelds”, it is because in Latvian, surnames end in either masculine or feminine forms – “s” at the end of a name is masculine eg. “Akerfelds”, and “e” or “a” at the end of a name is feminine eg. “Akerfelde”, “Ozolina”. When you drop the defining ending, you effectively search for both male, female, or whatever other suffixes might be attached (as is common in the Latvian language). Other This is the same Martins listed in “These Names Accuse” deported to Siberia where he died after 2 years in the gulags, probably for his work in the Aizsargi and for the fact that he owned his own farm (named “Jaunzemjos”, which was adjacent to Skrundenieki).
This article above is an excerpt from “Jaunākās Ziņas” (“Latest News”), a Latvian periodical published on Wednesday, May 13, 1936. This contains a list of Aizsargi men who were given awards of merit at an event for Aizsargi. The Aizsargi were comparable to policemen at the time. The beginning paragraph states:
“Aizsargu organizacijas apbalvosanas komisijas sede kura piedalijas komisijas priekssedis, aizsargu prieksneiks K. Prauls, locekli – 7. Valkas aizsargi pulka komandieris K. Briedis, 11 Tukuma Aizsargi. Komandieris Karklins, 16 Jelgavas Aizsargi. Komandieris A. Ausmanis, 18 Daugavpils Aizsargi. Komandieris Silauss un sekretars – referents – aizsargu staba organacijas dalas prieksnieks llll nolemts apbalvot sakara at Tautas vienibas svetkiem 15 maija par nopelniem valsts aizsardzibas darbas ar.”
“The Aizsargi Organization Awards Committee meeting, which was attended by the chairman of the commissionm guard K. Prauls: a member of the 7 Valkas Aizsargi regiment, K. Briedis: a member of the 11 Tukums Aizsargi, Commander Karklins of the 16 Jelgava Aizsargi, Commander A. Ausmanis of the 18 Daugavpils Aizsargi. Commander Silauss and secretary decided to award the following men for their work merits on May 15th, 1936.”
You will see Martins Akerfelds, member of Aizputes aprinki, Nikraces pagasts. No. 6 under “Ar medalu “Par centibu”” (“Awards for diligence)”.
Above is an excerpt from the Latvian periodical “Valdības Vēstnesis” (“Government Gazette”) published September 6, 1937.
“Zinojums par izsniegto zaudejumu atlidzibu par sergu del nogalinatiem un sergas kritusiem lopiem 1937. g. julija
30. Aizputes aprinki, Nikraces pagast, Jaunzemjos farm Martins Akerfelds par liellopu jauna karsona del gala nokauto teli jaunlopu. 20,—”
“Report on the compensation issued by the government for cattle that have been lost to disease in July 1937
30. Aizputes aprinki, Nikraces pagast, Jaunzemjos farm Martins Akerfelds lost one heifer and one young cow. 20 lats compensation”
The above excerpt is from a book outlining those missing after the Soviet deportations.
“Akerfelds, Martins. Born in 1902 in Tomsk guberniya (region), Russia. Arrested: June 14, 1941. Accused of being a member of the Peasant’s Union (agrarian political party) and a Commander in the local Aizsargi. Case no. P-5604″
This last excerpt is from a book outlining those missing after the Soviet deportations as well.
“Akerfelds, Martins. Son of Jekabs, born in 1902. Living at Jaunzemji farm. Arrested June 14, 1941. Died in Kirov region, Vyatlag camp on May 17, 1943. Case No. 16441, P-5604
Akerfelds, Anna. Daughter of Janis, born in 1895. Living at Jaunzemji farm. Arrested June 14, 1941. Released from Krasnojarsk, Manas region on September 11, 1947. Case No. 16441
Akerfelds, Skaidrite. Daughter of Martins, born in 1937. Living at Jaunzemji farm. Arrested June 14, 1941. Released from Krasnojarsk, Manas region on October 15, 1946. Case No. 16441″
Zigurds “Ziggy” Melderis
Date of Birth: Friday, October 4th, 1929
Date of Death: Friday, March 10th, 2006
Passed away peacefully on Friday, March 10, 2006 at West Parry Sound Health Centre at the age of 76.
Beloved husband of the late Aija (Latuns) Melderis who passed away in 1994. Loving father of Andy Melderis and his wife Carol. Ziggy will be dearly missed by his special friend Rasma.
Ziggy was born October 4, 1929 in Latvia. A long time resident of Kitchener, he retired as foreman from Warren Bitulithic Ltd. after 34 years of dedicated service. In 1990 he moved with his wife and mother, Vilma, to their home on the lake in Parry Sound to enjoy his many hobbies.
Ziggy’s family will receive friends at the Henry Walser Funeral Home, 507 Frederick St., Kitchener (749-8467) on Monday from 7-9 p.m. and on Tuesday from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. A funeral service for Ziggy will be held in the funeral home chapel on Wednesday, March 15, 2006 at 2 PM. Interment will take place at Parkview Cemetery, followed by a reception.
As expressions of sympathy, memorial donations to the Canadian Cancer Society would be appreciated by the family (cards available at the funeral home). Visit http://www.obitsforlife.com/obituary/113894/Melderis-Zigurds.php for Ziggy’s memorial.
Zig was a close family friend to my grandmother and grandfather. It seems to be that he probably served in the US Army Labor Service Co. with my grandfather Arvids in Germany. I’m not entirely sure what town in Latvia he hailed from, but I believe he may have been a family friend even earlier than the Labor Service days.
He was born October 4, 1929 to Andrejs Melderis and Vilma Riekstins (“Melderis” means “Miller” and “Riekstins” means “little nuts”. He married Aija Latuns and immigrated to Canada after WWII. My grandmother Rasma went to live with Zig in Parry Sound in the late 1990′s, both being widowers. Zig was a wonderful man and I enjoyed many visits to his home in Parry Sound before his death from cancer in 2006, a year before my grandmother would also pass away from cancer.
His mother Vilma lived almost as long as he did – she was 102 years old at the time of her death in 2004(http://obitsforlife.com/obituary/114745/Melderis-Vilma.php), and was still healthy enough to have been living with Zig in Parry Sound until only a few months before her death, I believe.
Arvids Martins Akerfelds and Rasma Lilija Vinakmens were married August 10, 1957 at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.
The decals and license plates on the closer car says Racine, Wisconsin – this must have belonged to Rasma’s Vinakmens cousins from Racine! (Nice ride!)
This is the headstone of Karlis and Berta Vinakmens, in Parkview Cemetery, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My opa Karlis lived to be 88 years old, and oma Berta was 91 when she passed.
You can see the oak leaves Karlis was so fond of carving on the left top corner, and a rose on top of oak leaves on the top right (perhaps for Berta’s love of flowers and gardening?).
The cross with the sunburst in the middle of the headstone is the symbol of the New Apostolic church, which Karlis and Berta converted to whilst here in Ontario.
The words “Vieglas Smiltas” literally translate to “Light Sands” which my mother tells me has a “ashes to ashes, dust to dust” type meaning.