The Flight Motivation in the Life-Stories of Exile Latvians

Maija Krūmiņa (Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia)

The life stories of Latvians who became refugees during the Second World War and subsequently lived in exile often portray fleeing from Latvia as the only viable course of action. The primary motivation for this mass exodus was the imminent approach of the front line, which inevitably posed severe threats to personal safety and life. Additionally, there was a pervasive, deep-seated hatred and fear of the Soviets and the Red Army. This fear was rooted in two main sources: personal experiences during the initial Soviet occupation and the potent influence of Nazi propaganda. The propaganda effectively demonized the Soviets by emphasizing the atrocities committed during the Year of Horror (1940-1941), thereby intensifying the sense of impending danger.

However, deciding to leave one’s home and homeland was an incredibly difficult, often heart-wrenching decision. For many refugees the deep emotional and cultural ties that individuals had to their land and the social environment in which they lived made the thought of leaving almost inconceivable. These connections fostered a strong sense of community and belonging, making it hard to contemplate abandoning the only place they knew as home, even in the face of life-threatening dangers.

The presentation delves into the individual and collective memories of exiled Latvians, exploring their motivations for fleeing. The analysis is based on the interviews with exile Latvian gathered at the Latvian National Oral History Collection, providing a nuanced understanding of the refugees’ experiences and the complex interplay of factors that influenced their decisions.