52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 23: Martins Akerfelds

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

My next “trend” I’d like to write about are NOT my direct ancestors, but are siblings of direct ancestors, with rather incredible stories.

Martins Akerfelds was born in 1902 near the village of Tomsk in Tomsk oblast, Siberia. His family – mother, father, two older brothers and a sister – had moved there a few years prior, from Latvia – the Kurland province of the Russian empire at the time. This Kurland-Siberia trip is a path quite a few Latvians took at this time in history – land was very cheap in Siberia, especially because the Russian empire was keen to grow the population and work the land, colonize the vast expanse to the east. Tomsk was a growing city at the time, with two universities, the Trans-Siberian Railway nearby, and the discovery of gold to boost the economy. It must have seemed like a golden opportunity at the time.

The opportunity was lost though, because Martins’ father Jekabs became ill shortly after his birth, and the family made a quick move back to their original home in Nikrace pagast, Latvia. Martins’ mother Ieva was pregnant with his little sister when his father Jekabs died in July 1904, apparently of kidney disease. Ieva gave birth soon after to a daughter she named Katte. The family lived at Cepli farm on the old Lieldzelda estate and Ieva remarried in 1908 to a fellow widower named Janis Blazgis. Martins attended Nikrace pamatskola (elementary school). He eventually married his half-brother’s widow, Anna Zveja sometime in the early 1930’s and lived at Jaunzemji farm which was owned by Anna’s parents. His brother (my great grandfather Janis) and sister lived on an adjacent farm with their large families. Martins himself became a stepfather to Anna’s three children, his half-nephews.

Martins was a young man when Latvia gained her first stint of independence. The Latvian people had more freedom and opportunity than ever before, new political parties were formed as Latvians were finally able to begin to choose their own types of government (as opposed to being ruled by German land barons or the Tzar). Having been an agricultural laborer his entire life, Martins became a supporter of a new political party called the Farmer’s Union, like many other Latvians, who were a very agricultural people. His became the owner of Jaunzemji after his parents-in-law passed away sometime before 1935 and he joined the local Aizsargi unit – a small, local defense police force. Martins and Anna added one more child to their family, a daughter born in 1937. Things seemed to be going well for Martins at this time.

This period of Latvian independence Martins grew up under came to a sad end when World War Two started. Soviet Russia occupied the country, and under their communist regime began to effectively squash any future attempts to regain sovereignty by Latvia. They did this by declaring Latvians in any position of power or wealth enemies of the state. This included all Latvian military personnel and political figures, right down to bank managers, large-scale land owners, the Aizsargi and people deemed in support of the Farmer’s Union political party. This was a dangerous time for these people, and who began to slowly be arrested or go missing.

The arrests and disappearances culminated on the night of June 14, 1941. In a well-organized and planned move, Soviets stormed the houses of a huge list of people, “enemies” all over Latvia. These arrestees were given a few minutes to pack some essentials, then taken to the local train station. Not just the men who had been deemed enemies, their entire families. Wives, children, infants, elderly. Women and children were herded into train cars designed for hauling cattle, and then men separated and put into different cattle cars. Family units were separated in this way, and many (if not, most) never saw their loved ones again. The trains were bound for Siberian gulags – strings of prison labour camps in the harsh Siberian landscape. The journey to prison was a harsh one. With many being unprepared for such long travel, the sick, weak, very young and very old were most at risk at this point. Many died on the way. The camps were notoriously brutal – disgusting cesspools of filth, long hours of labor every day, and little food or shelter. While the Nazis were committing gross atrocities against Jews in western Europe, another genocide was taking place in the east – a slow, sad and painful genocide that has somehow missed the history books.

Martins, Anna and their 4 year old daughter were arrested the night of June 14th, 1941. Anna and her young daughter were sent to the Krasnojarsk camp, and Martins went to Vyatlag camp in Kirov. Anna and her daughter were eventually released, separately in different years, mind you – 1946 and 1947. But Martins had tragically died of exhaustion and exposure in Vyatlag on May 17, 1943, aged 41 years old. Martins was coincidentally born and had died in Siberia.

I had assumed the worst for Anna and her daughter, 9 years old at her release (imagine a child growing up in a prison labor camp, then being released alone without her mother and no father) but recently I discovered some of their descendants, which shed a little happiness on this very sad story. Martins’ 9 year old daughter had made it back home to Latvia and had grown up, married and had three children of her own.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 18: Janis Stromanis

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Janis Stromanis was born around 1810, quite likely on Vecpils estate in rural Latvia. He was born before the time that Latvian peasant farmers acquired surnames of their own – this acquisition was a process carried out in the mid 1830’s in Latvia’s Kurzeme province where Janis lived. Scribes visited each house and recorded the surnames of those living there. The basic rules were that each father was to choose a name for himself and his children, and each child of a deceased father could choose his own name. There were other rules regarding what kind of names could be chosen, and there are many other subtleties to this as well – more reading on the naming process can be found HERE. Stromanis is a Latvian name derived from a German compound name – Strohmann. Stroh mann means – wait for it – straw man. Could this be derived from his line of work? Or perhaps some physical characteristic? Latvians chose surnames based on both, so it is anyone’s guess.

What I do know is that Janis’ father must have been alive at the time of the naming because while Janis married a woman named Lize and had two daughters with her in 1836 and 1838, other Stromanis family members served as their godparents, meaning he very likely had siblings. His daughters were born on Vecpils estate, at Gobzemji and Kapsi farms. Their eldest daughter, Made is my 3x great grandmother.

What makes Janis tough to find more information about is that he was married before having an official surname, and Janis isn’t exactly a stand out name – it is in fact the #1 most common male Latvian name. Lize is not uncommon either, although it is less common than Anna or Ieva. But there were tons of Janis and Lizes at the time, and the fact that both of their daughters were born on different farms also means they don’t seem to have strong ties to any farm in particular. The reason I was able to find their daughter Made’s baptism, which occurred before the acquisition of surnames is that her marriage record to last week’s ancestor’s son, Janis Sedols, is actually the most detailed marriage I’ve come across in regards to my own family so far. It stated that her parents were Janis and Lize and she was born at Gobzemji farm.

For now, Janis is as far back as I have gone with this line. I have not yet found his burial record, so I don’t know how long he lived or when and where he passed away, but that just means I have more work to do on Raduraksti’s wealth of church books!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 17: Kristaps Sedols

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Kristaps Sedols was born around 1805 on Kazdangas estate in Kurzeme, either on Strebuki farm, or on a farm known as “Waijuppe” in German, which I can’t seem to locate on any map or decide what it’s Latvian name would be – although the “Uppe” at the end could be related to “Upe” which is Latvian for “river”. It’s possible the farm did not exist later on for some reason and that’s why I can’t find it. He is my 4x great grandfather, the grandfather of Ieva Sedols.

I believe I have found Kristaps’ baptismal record, although at this time in history, he did not have a surname yet. If it is indeed the right baptism, his parents were named Ermanis and Madde – but I am just not certain enough to say for sure yet. Ermanis and Madde would have been born around 1775, which is quite far back in Latvian Kurzeme standards.

Whether he was born there or moved there at some point, Kristaps lived at Strebuki farm at the time of his marriage to a young widow named Marija in 1837. Her husband had been named Mikelis Paukši, and he was definitely born at “Waijuppe” farm. Mikelis had died earlier in the year, and Marija, with a 7 year old daughter and 2 year old son married Kristaps at Valtaiki parish church. Marija was from Muizaraji farm on nearby Perbone estate and was roughly the same age as Kristaps. It might seem coarse to marry the same year your spouse dies in this day and age, but it was quite a good deal more common back then – Marija needed a breadwinner.

Kristaps and Marija had a son named Janis in 1838 at Strebuki farm, and this is my ancestor. I have not yet found a record of Kristaps death, to do so is quite a task. It is possible he had moved away from Valtaiki parish by the time he passed away, in which case I’d be blindly searching for a needle in a haystack in neighbour parish church books, with no clue as to what age he survived to past his son Janis’ conception. It appears as thought Kristaps is at the top of my Sedols line for now!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 11: Ieva Sedola

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Ieva Sedola was my great, great grandmother. She was born January 31, 1869 to Janis Sedols and Made Stromane of Jaunzemji farm on Berghof estate (Kalnmuiza in Latvian, later known as Sieksate pagast). She was baptized February 9, 1869 at Valtaiki parish church. Her godparents are noted as Ieva Stromane, maiden, Lise Krumina and Mikelis Sedols, youth. In 1892, aged 23 she married Jekabs Grinbergs alias Akerfelds at neighboring Embutes parish church, BUT I have recently discovered that she had a bit of a past. She had given birth to an illegitimate child in 1890, a son whom she named Janis Sedols and baptized at Valtaiki church. She named Klavs Sedols and his wife Ede and Janis Sedols (quite possibly her little brother) as his godparents. Illegitimate children were not unheard of for this time and place, but were still somewhat of a scar on the reputation. There were laws about fathers paying support for their illegitimate children, but since no father at all is acknowledged on Janis’ baptism, it is more probable that Ieva was all on her own, wanting to keep the father anonymous and not receiving any sort of support.

Ieva and Jekabs had two children while living at Muizaraji farm on Lieldzelda estate. They had another son named Janis in 1898, but shortly after his birth the family left the parish, and no baptism for Janis exists at Embutes (or anywhere else in Latvia that I’ve searched). Ieva took her 4 young children, all under the age of 10, and made a very long trip with her husband a long way east to the city of Tomsk in Siberia where he sought (yet unknown) better employment opportunities. It is possible Jekabs either worked for the Trans-Siberian Railway (although the railway bypassed Tomsk to the south), or a gold mining operation (gold was discovered in the area around that time) or possibly, but quite unlikely that he was attending one of Tomsk’s two new colleges. It is even possible that he just went there to farm and settle, since land was given away to willing settlers in an effort to colonize Siberia at the time. Ieva had a fifth child in Tomsk in 1902 named Martins.

Tragedy struck Ieva and her blossoming family when Jekabs became ill after Martins’ birth. The family returned home to Lieldzelda estate, my guess is to be close to family. In July of 1904, Jekabs passed away at the young age of 34, and his church burial record states that his cause of death was kidney disease. Ieva was a young widow at 35 with 5 children and one on the way – she was pregnant with Jekabs’ last child. Daughter Katte Akerfelds was born that November. It must have been a tough few years for this family – Ieva, being pregnant or with a newborn and her older children would have had to work to earn their keep somewhere. In 1908 she married fellow widower Janis Blazgis, and so far I do not know of any children from this union, though it is possible.

Ieva’s oldest son, the illegitimate Janis Sedols married Anna Zveja and made Ieva a grandmother for the first time in 1914. Anna’s parents Janis and Jule Zveja owned Jaunzemji farm in Nikrace pagast, just a bit south of Lieldzelda and it’s entirely possible that they allowed Ieva and the rest of her children to come live with them when Janis married their daughter. Which would make sense, because Ieva’s younger son Janis Akerfelds and daughter Katte married a son and a daughter of the neighbouring farm’s owners, Indrikis and Jule Ziverts. Ieva, widowed for a second time after Janis Blazgis’ death sometime after 1918, moved in with them in 1924 to the Ziverts’ farm named Skrundenieki. The farmhouse was more than one hundred years old, lit by oil lamp and supplied with water from a spring. There were four rooms – and quickly they were filled with more grandchildren for Ieva as her children’s families flourished. Ieva would have enjoyed a simple, rural life surrounded by a large family at this time.

Ieva died sometime between the ages of 72 and 75 – She is present on the 1941 Latvian census, but was not with her family when they were forcibly evacuated to Germany in October of 1944. She was more than likely buried at Embutes parish’s cemetery, and one day I hope to find this out!

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 10: Emilija Karline Veisberga

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Emilija Karline Veisbergs was born October 25, 1885 to Mikelis Veisbergs and his wife Lina Brugis of Taunaga farm in Struzani pagast, just north of the eastern city of Rezekne in the Latgale province of Latvia. At the time, it was a part of the Russian Empire. Emilija was baptized at the Lutheran church in Rezekne in November just a few days after her birth, and her godparents were Karlis and his wife Karline Zvikelis and Karline Brugis. Her parents were married in 1882 at Rezekne church, and she had one older brother named Janis Rudolfs Veisbergs, born in 1883 at Gribuli farm in Struzani pagast – her parents were not particularly bound to any farm. This is of note, because after Emilija’s baptism, the family disappears from Rezekne church records. Where and why they went is a mystery to me that I am still working on, but for the next 5 years following Emilija’s birth they are nowhere to be found (yet). Then they pop up out of nowhere in Dobele parish in 1890 and 1891 to baptize two children while living at Dobe and Rumbenhof. Then they disappear another 5 years, only to pop up and baptize two more children at Tukums Lutheran church while living at Slokenbekas estate.

I don’t have a clue why they were moving so much, certainly it had something to do with Emilija’s father Mikelis and work, but it seems that Emilija spent her childhood and teens travelling around, not staying in one place. She must have settled in for a bit after her parents went to Slokenbekas though, because in November 1904 she married Vilis Augusts Vinakmens at Tukums Lutheran church. Emilija gave birth to their first son, named after her older brother Janis Rudolfs in 1905 at Slokenbekas. Her next two children were baptized at Kandava parish, northwest of Tukums in 1911 and 1913 (the latter being my great grandfather Karlis).

Then World War One broke out, and Emilija, like tens of thousands of other residents of Kurzeme, packed up and left their lives behind, seeking refuge from the German advancements into the Russian Empire that was their home, and moved with her husband and three sons to somewhere in modern Siberia (I’d wager a guess at somewhere along the Trans-Siberian Railway). Vilis found work at a meat packing factory and the family subsisted, although definitely in hardship as refugees. A fourth child was born in 1916 – Emilija’s only daughter named Alise. Shortly after her birth, the Russian Bolshevik Revolution gained steam, and the communist Bolsheviks seized power in Russia. Strikes, civilian unrest and communism closed the doors at Vilis’ meat packing factory, leaving the family without income. Luckily, World War One soon ended and Emilija, Vilis and their four children were able to move back to Tukums sometime between 1918 and 1921.

The end of World War One was an interesting time for Latvia – the area as a country gained independence for first time in modern history as part of the treaty of Brest-Litovsk (well, long story short anyways). Latvia experienced a time of great national awakening, strong nationalistic pride. People who had once been peasants belonging to German landowners in the Russian Empire were suddenly proud, free Latvians and the economy boomed. Emilija gave birth to her fifth and last child, Fricis in Tukums in 1921. Sometime after Fricis’ conception, Vilis left Emilija for a younger woman. After all they’d been through, he turned his back on her and their children. This must have been tough, with five children ranging from age 16 to newborn. Her eldest son enlisted with the army and worked in a communications unit in Riga, surely sending money to help Emilija and his siblings. Her next son got a job with the railroad and lived mostly in Valmiera and Daugavpils. Her third son also enlisted with the army, this time in the navy, his unit stationed at Liepaja. Emilija lived in Tukums with her two youngest, unmarried children. Daughter Alise worked at a pharmacy and son Fricis became a mechanic.

Emilija, Alise and Fricis moved into 11 Talsu iela in Tukums on March 1, 1940. Emilija was working as a housekeeper, likely nearby. The last bit of evidence I have about her life is the 1941 census of Latvia. After that, World War Two ravaged Latvia, many awful things happened. Latvia’s short term independence was lost to waves of occupation by both Soviet and Nazi governments. Emilija must have been incredibly worried about her older children, scattered around Latvia, as their involvement with the military and railroad would make them stand out to Soviet and Nazi occupiers as potential “Enemies of the state”. She must have lost communication with her son Arnolds in Daugavpils after the mass Soviet deportations of 1941, since his name is found in a book called These Names Accuse – a list compiled by the Latvian government of those reported missing and likely deported after the deportations. Youngest son Fricis was forcibly conscripted by the German Todt Organization in 1942 and sent off to the Eastern front in Russia. Near the end of the war, Tukums became the site of particularily awful and violent fighting and bombing as the Germans began to lose and the Russians pushed the eastern front back westward. I’ve been told that Emilija became one of the civilian casualties, meaning that very likely she passed away in 1944, around age 59.

Emilija had a relatively short and tough life. The good news is that in the face of all that hardship, all five of her children lived into their eighties, Alise was at least in her nineties when she passed away – if she is not alive still today! (I have no further news about Alise but she was living the last I heard). Emilija’s descendants are scattered around the USA, Canada, Latvia and Russia today.

Usmas Pagast, 1944

When the war was over and my great grandfather Karlis Vinakmens and his family were living in Allied occupied Germany, my great grandfather wrote a letter outlining the details of his final days in Latvia before becoming a Nazi POW. I am not sure exactly to whom the letter was addressed, but it was probably some Latvian authority. This original letter is kept in the archives of the Latvian Occupation Museum in Riga. The museum’s historian Uldis Neiburgs was kind enough to send me copies, and a wonderful lady named Ilze translated it to English for me.

After the war, Latvia remained under communist rule until 1991. Talking about these events would have been extremely dangerous, and much is unknown about the events discussed here. This might even be one of the only eyewitness accounts of the what happened, and to have been written down in 1946, while still so fresh in my great grandfather’s mind makes this letter significant. Without further ado, his words:

“When I found out about the Latvian partisans I immediately wanted to join. It was also becoming increasingly difficult to avoid being conscripted into the German army and I could no longer stand the way that the Germans were operating in our country.
12/10/1944 Lt Rubenis battalion arrived at Ilziki near Usmas. My wish was met by the battalion commander Rubenis who enlisted me with the Minumetaji as a strelnieks (rifleman). As Ilziki didn’t have many rooms and our numbers were growing each day there was nothing else to do but build bunkers in the forest around Ilzikiem. My section settled into a bunker but others moved into the houses called Irbi and Vanagi which were part of the settlement of Ilziki.
At the start of November I fell ill with malignant tumors (that is the correct translation but surely he means something less serious, perhaps boils or ulcers?) so I was moved to Irbi where the battalions ambulance was billeted. There I was living with the mechanics group from the battalion, and I stayed with this group when the Germans started to annihilate Latvian partisans.
Even though we came from different areas of Latvia, we managed to get along and live together because we all carried in our hearts the love of our homeland.
Even though initially the Germans tolerated the partisan groups in Kurzeme, later they started to eradicate them. The Germans had hoped that the groups would provide them with the highest possible numbers of recruits for their own army, therefore they allowed them to flourish. But the partisans refused all German commands to join the German army and this caused the change of heart of the Germans.
Then the Germans asked the partisans to hand over all Latvians who had deserted the German army. They replied that they were Latvians within their own country, were not guilty of any crime against their own country and would not be given up. Seeing that the Germans were not getting anywhere with the partisan leaders their response was to annihilate the groups.
From 13/11/1944 to 14/11/1944 the Germans broke into all the houses where the partisans were sleeping to arrest or kill them. From the news it was apparent that only our battalion had succeeded in avoiding the attack. It was decided to go into the forests of Ilziki pagast to save our freedom. We followed forest trails around the eastern shore of Usmas Lake in the dark, moving towards Renda.
15/11/1944 we were not far from Lielbrenda and in the morning light we couldn’t dare continue marching. We rested through the day so that we could move again under cover of darkness.
15/11/1944 – 16/11/1944 we moved on without incident and in the morning we were near the Upati Forest guards house. There we fed the horses and we ourselves also rested as we still had a long way to go. As we were now tired we stayed well away from main roads moving only on forest trails and this enabled us to travel in daylight.
Not far from Perkonu house we were overtaken from behind by two German vehicles, a truck and a car. It turned out that in the truck were ?French? soldiers who were going to arrest two deserters.
After a while 2 German officers arrived. So it was that we took away the pleasure of these two thieves of Kurzeme (direct translation to give you the heartfelt emotion with which this is written). We stopped them as it was not in our interests for them to continue either their journey to arrest the deserters or to return to their command post.
Initially the German officers were very worried but in later talks with our commander they said that here around Kuldiga partisans had not been outlawed. It was only around Talsi where General Jekelns had given the command to annihilate partisan groups. They even named the houses in which local partisan groups were living. They suggested our commander drive back with them to their command post to discuss which houses the battalion could occupy and live here.
As it happened, our battalion commander accompanied the Germans to their post for discussions, our battalion stayed where we were, awaiting the outcome of the talks. In the first day of talks no decisions were made because the senior German officer was not there, so discussion continued for a second day.
17/11/1944 When the battalion commander arrived at the German post he was surprised to come face to face with Jekeln. Jekeln was very put out that the partisans had earlier evaded him but now he had caught them and for a final time he was ordering them to lay down their arms and surrender or they would, without exception be exterminated.
In a quiet calm manner Lt Rubenis answered, and they were his final words on the matter: “I want you to drive me back to my men in the forest, they have no intention of laying down arms nor of surrender.” Jekeln smirked “You are surrounded by SS battalions and you will be wiped out to the last man.”
Our battalion commander returned fairly crestfallen, the choices open to him were not that good, driving back he saw columns of Germans marching towards our area. Our lookouts also reported the German presence and movements. Our battalion commander called for our attention and in a few words told us what had happened. He told us to form up in readiness for battle that would come with the German attack. It was not possible to guess when this attack would come.
Already at 17:00 hours on 18/11/1944 German “starki” (artillery? rockets?) fly over us. In the forest at night they found no targets.
Dawn on 18/11/1944, the sunbeams are shining through the spruce trees, it’s a beautiful emotional scene of the men sitting together sunbeams playing over them as they sit around a campfire discussing what has happened in the previous year and todays celebrated/heroic acts that they anticipate are still to happen.
Seated are Briedis, Zarins and Kapastins with his wife, who would not be separated from her husband even in this difficult path of walking in the footsteps of the partisans. The battalion’s mechanic group Adjans, Aire, Zigurs, Ozolins, Kalnins and me had our flag flying here under the grey spruces of our homeland that the SS are so determined to destroy.
That was what 18/11 was like for Latvian partisans in 1944 on the left bank of the Abavas not far from Lielbrendes.
The morning was quiet, even so the battalion prepared for the fight. At 9:30 the first German “starki” (rockets) appeared and that revealed the position of the German heavy and light artillery, that started firing. The gunfire echoes in the forest and the fronds of the spruce rain down like snow flakes falling on the fighters clothing.
At 10:00 they started to advance their attack with German foot soldiers and their automatic fire. From the partisan side can be heard about 10 shots that are not without result. The partisans are not attacking, only taking defensive positions. As the Germans were not trying very hard, relying on their superior numbers and fire power they did not achieve their desired result. Some Germans lost their way and ended up being taken by the Latvian fighters.
As darkness was falling the Latvians started to push back the German attack and in places quite quickly the Germans in retreat found themselves on the banks of the fast flowing Abavas River and in their rush they couldn’t find a way to cross. The strongest partisan weapon fire forced those still left alive into the current and here now the fast flowing Abava achieves its goal and the majority drown. The German soldiers are driven by the current to the Venta River. Lots of German corpses litter the forests of Kurzeme and their losses are heavier than the partisans.
The most painful loss for the partisans is the loss of their commander, Roberts Rubenis, who not long after being wounded in the stomach and leg, died of his wounds. The command is taken over by v.v. Druvins. After the German encounter the battalion moves on as there is no reason to wait here.
Again a couple of times through the night there are a couple of encounters with landmines left behind by the houses that the battalion used. The strongest resistance is around the ‘Novadnieku’ houses. Even so v.v. Sulcs who is at the front of the column finds them.
On the 19th we camp in a swampy forest to rest and decide that our commanders, Lt Rubenis funeral will be carried out at Usmas cemetery. Having taken command Druvins gave a short speech in memory of our fallen and also mentioning our country’s National Day (18/11 is Latvia Day). He thanked us all for our heroic fight now so fatefully linked with 18/11.
Doubly significant is this day because it brought us victory over a superior enemy. Finally Druvins invited us all to sing the Lords Prayer(?) As many hundreds of mens chests/hearts overflow with prayer and their eyes blink back tears even after years of fighting – for those who are lost. In the distant forest there echo the songs last words, silence rules the moment as in a holy place, our homeland forest, we fighters stand, heads covered only by the grey spruces, bitter sweetness overlays the silence.
Again v.v. Sulcs recounts the conversation between our fallen commander and the German officers. With what arrogance the Germans dealt with the Latvians. Latvians can only fight, there are no other steps that can be taken against the German occupiers said v.v. Sulcs. They have taken our brothers, our sisters, and parents to their country not for some festivities but for hard/cruel work. They have destroyed our fields and pastures, our towns, stolen from our homes, we have to take the fight up to these invaders to the end even if it costs us our lives. And we will show no mercy to these, thieves of our country concluded v.v. Sulcs.
Over the night 19 to 20/11/1944 the battalion marched further and during the day of 20/11/1944 we came to Diskiru house in the region not far from where the Abavas joins the Venta and here we stay.
Making use of this rest period I ask permission from my commander to visit my family which is living in the small village of Valdemarpils, and having been granted permission I take to the road.
To avoid the areas in which partisans are being hunted and where Germans have put up strong control points I travel in a long diversion through Kuldiga along the Kuldiga and Tukums pagast boundary through Talsi and finally arrive at Valdemarpils.
Here at Valdemarpils is another bit of bad luck. Everyone who has come here from elsewhere, if they haven’t documented evidence of having lived here for 3 years, they are being forcibly removed to Germany. As I’m not on the residents list I was stopped and together with all the exiled, including my own family, we were taken to Ventspils and then by ship to Germany. It should be noted that in Valdemarpils this action was undertaken by communists with the help of Germans. They didn’t even allow the town council to distribute food parcels from those who had relatives who had somehow escaped deportation.
In this way on 8/12/1944 we left Ventspils. I have no further knowledge of my fighting comrades and have had no further news.”

Veisbergs Migration

My great great grandmother Emilija Karoline Veisbergs was born in 1885 in Rezekne, the second child of Mikelis Veisbergs and Line Brugis, who  lived in nearby Struzani estate at the time. Mikelis and Line were married in 1882 in Rezekne. What is noteworthy is this family migrated WEST after Emilija’s birth, at a time when most Latvians were migrating EAST to avoid conflict during the Russian Empire’s 1905 revolution. Emilija married Vilis Vinakmens in 1904 in Tukums, halfway westward across the country.

I had given up hope in finding any more information about Mikelis and Line, seeing as they “disappeared” from the records after Emilija’s birth, when I stumbled across them at Slokenbekas estate near Tukums, where I was looking for my Vinakmens relatives. In 1896 and 1900, they baptized two children at Tukums Lutheran church while living at Slokenbekas. That left an 11 year gap between Emilija’s birth and the next child. Again I did not expect to have my questions answered about their whereabouts during that time. And again! I stumbled across two children baptized by MIkelis and Line Veisbergs, at Dobele parish in 1890 and 1891.

So, they were married in 1882. First child in 1884 at Rezekne. Emilija in 1885 at Rezekne. I next found children in 1890 and 1891 at Dobele. And then two more at Tukums in 1896 and 1900.

The Brugis surname can be found in a few parishes in Latgale and Vidzeme. But the Germanic background of the name Veisbergs suggests perhaps Mikelis originated in Kurzeme and had migrated east to Rezekne for a short period, to return later.

New clues!