LU Social Sciences faculty’s doctoral student, Oskars Gruziņš, discovers a rare photograph of the 1949 mass deportation

Friday 22 March 2019
LU Social Sciences faculty’s doctoral student, Oskars Gruziņš, discovers a rare photograph of the 1949 mass deportation

On Monday, March 25th, at 15.00 an event will be held at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (Raina bulv. 7), where a photograph of the 25 March 1949 Soviet deportations will be premiered. This unique document, one of four photos known to exist, was found during a scientific expedition in 25 July, 2018 by Oskars Gruziņš. Gruziņš, a PhD student in communication science at the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Latvia, found the photo as a result of his research in the Maria Sklodowska-Kiri innovative training network "Children born of war- past present, and future" (CHIBOW).

The newly discovered photograph shows a group of people standing at the Ventspils railway station on March 25, 1949, before the train, filled with innocent victims of the Soviet regime, departs for Siberia. This small image, a bit larger than a matchbox, is the fourth known photograph of the second mass deportation of Latvians. After its discovery, the owner of the photo, Virginia Krebs, donated the original to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia.

After studying the fate of the people in the photograph, experts at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia concluded that “In the foreground, in front of the train wagons, the Kroj family can be seen; Marta and Vilis, as well as their daughters Valija and Maiga. The third daughter, Rasma, is not in the image as she was placed in another car, because she had been taken from the city of Ventspils. The fourth daughter, Olga, with her two-year-old daughter Virginia, was the only member of the immediate family who was not deported and stayed in Latvia. The Kroj family was deported to the Omsk oblast, the Sherbakle district, Borisovska village and were released from exile only in 1958. Parents, Marta and Vilis, were forbidden to return to Latvia and they died in Siberia, yet their daughters eventually returned. The family had sent this image to their daughter and sister, Olga, in the early 1950s. The image was donated to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia by the daughter of Olga, Virgin Krebs, last year. Upon donation, she told the museum that her mother had been reluctant to talk about the deportation of her parents and sisters. Only in adulthood did Virgin learn bit by bit the fate of her relatives. Even after her aunts returned to Latvia, contact in the family was not easy, because the years spent in separation have done their own. ”

The coordinator of the project "Children Born of War – Past, Present and Future" is the University of Birmingham (UK), and members include the University of Leipzig (Germany), the University of Augsburg (Germany), the University of Rouen (France), the University of Latvia, the University of Silesia in Katowice (Poland), the University of Klaipeda (Lithuania), the University of Greifswald (Germany), Jan Evangelista Purkyně University in Ústí (Czech Republic), the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for the Research on Consequences of War (Austria), Psychotrauma Centre South Netherlands (Netherlands) and Utrecht University (Netherlands). Project partner organizations include GESIS Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences (Germany), the ICON Institute (Germany), Facilitation for Peace and Development (Uganda), the BBC (United Kingdom) and the Russian State University for the Humanities. The "Children Born of War – Past, Present and Future" project is a part of the EU's "Horizon 2020" program.

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