Tag Archives: Riga

All things come in their due seasons

Alex was born in Latvia within a family of people later on became non-citizens. Therefore he is a non-citizen himself.

He is cheerful and optimistic. He is one of the scarce number of people here in Latvia that give you a smile as soon as you see him – at least people I have met and come across so far.

He is about to apply for citizenship because he says: “I do not have to do the military service and I have established myself in the private business.

Now I feel it is the right time to do so, since I can devote some time into naturalising and I have worked on my future too. I did not feel the need to become a citizen before.”

Although his infectious character and positive attitude towards life, Alex does not take for granted the current situation of non-citizens in Latvia.

 

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Curiosities about Latvija (I)

Laimas pulkstenis (Riga)

From now on I’ll be posting up some of the curios things I have come across since I moved to Latvija almost two weeks ago. There are plenty of them, so I hope you get to know the country better through these lines.

I’ll be starting with something I found out in the capital Riga. Have you ever noticed that locals have a special or certain place where they meet up in city centre? It’s true, no matter where you are, just have a look around and get mixed with locals. I bet you will discover wonderful things!

Going back to the meeting point… Like many and many other cities, Riga has also this place where people meet up. Even if they do not know each other. Its name is Laimas pulkstenis – Laima’s watch – and it is located just in front of the Brīvības piemineklis – Freedom Monument.

Laimas pulkstenis - meeting point

Believe it or not, tourist guides do stop by the watch and tell the bunch of avid photographers that this place is where Latvians usually meet in old town. They nod, take some pictures and keep walking.

But there is also a story behind this watch and due to my thirst of curiosity I have asked around to find out more about it.

It is one of the most popular symbols in Riga and it was set up in 1924. It’s main purpose back then was to help Latvians to be on time for work. It took 12 more years for the Latvian chocolate factory Laima to put its name on it. The watch survived WWII and in 1999 the famous sweet company refurbished it in order to give the watch the same look it had back in 1936.

I set up some of my meetings in Riga there and I would recommend to anybody visiting Latvija to spend some time around it, for you can have a wonderful sight of some of the main monuments in the city.

Besides, the chances to be approach by someone randomly and be asked whether you are the very person they are waiting for are quite high. They could become your next friend, they could have an interesting story behind… You never know…

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First stories; Yuri Petropavlovsky

My first interviewee was Yuri Petropavlovsky, and ethnic Russian and one of the most politically active non-citizen of Latvija, especially since the education reform’s protests in the country in 2004.

Yuri Petropavlovsky

Yuri was born in Riga (3 March 1955) and went for naturalisation (a process that coincided with the education reform), but his political life, we can say, cost him the Latvian passport.

He has been involved in politics for quite a long time now; he is member of ‘For Human Rights in United Latvia‘ party and he even tried to run for Riga’s mayor few years ago. However, he could not take part in the city’s elections, for the Government of Latvija revoked his citizenship after he says he was considered “disloyal” to the country.

He brought his case before both national and international courts.

In Latvija I have been told that the actions of the Government are outside the jurisdictions of the court, so I decided to take my case to the International Court for Human Rights in 2006. Europe should pronounce about my case as early as next year,” says Yuri.

“But to be honest, I appealed for my case and now what? Europe does not care about non-citizens in Latvija.”

Yuri studied Art and Design in Riga and spent some years of his professional life working for a range of private businesses. At the moment however, he is currently working as an analyst and writing for different Russian media outlets, as well as hosting a radio programme every week in a Russian radio station in Riga.

He did not take part in the referendum for Latvija’s independence in the early 1990s, something a lot of non-citizens did do, and while he waits for the resolution of his case, he assures me that current naturalisation rates, which are at one of its lowest points ever, show that something has changed among non-citizens in Latvija…. What is it?

Stay tuned for the final output to find out more!

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Filed under Citizenship, Education, Human side, Project, Social Integration

Latvia, a country of contrast

Drawing and Sketching artists in Rīga

After tonnes of emails and thousand calls, the time has finally come. My first interview – with a guided tour around downtown Rīga and its main historical buildings and areas – will be tomorrow afternoon.

Up to this very moment, I have been soaking up the Latvian culture and atmosphere. During my first five days in the country I have been trying to improve my Latvian – I am actually really proud of it, since it is getting better every day – and above all to understand a country that differs massively from the one I grew up in.

By that I mean keep myself updated with the latest newsy events, learn more about the palpable Soviet heritage that is easily noticeable in Latvija, especially in a great number of its buildings – the mixture of neglected areas and the old colourness Soviet buildings – and the stratification of Latvija’s society, the huge gap between rich and poor people.

I mixed myself among natives as much as I could, getting on rural buses that took me around the countryside in southern Latvija and getting lost in popular markets. Once someone told me that the best way to see a new country through the natives’ perspective is by visiting its daily markets and buy at least something in any of the stalls in them.

There are loads of individuals living just above the poverty line in Latvija. These people are the ones who were and are worst affected by the economic crunch that hit the country some three years ago. They mainly live in rural areas, but their presence in Rīga is easy to notice. However, this is something I will be talking about in future posts.

Let’s go back to the interview. The name of my interviewee is a big one among the non-citizens or aliens – without playing down other non-citizens importance.

I am not going to reveal it now, I would ask you instead to stay tuned for following posts. But I am telling you that he acquired citizenship by naturalisation and the Government of Latvija revoked it, for he took part in a series of education protests, something the authorities considered disloyal to Latvija.

More tomorrow…

PS One of the things that surprised me the most was the large number of drawing and sketching artists I have seen around Rīga city centre. They seek out inspiration on the capital’s Art Noveau for which it is widely known.

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The journey; the beginning

Sv. Pētera baznīca (Riga, Latvia)

Well, I have been posting a lot about the issue I am covering on my documentary so far. But nothing at all about the current situation of the project.

To be honest, I have been working on it for almost six months already. I got to know about non-citizens in Latvia thanks to my partner (she is Latvian) and made up my mind quickly.

Why?? Because pretty much everyone I told about it, knew nothing about 1) Baltic countries 2) Latvia 3) Non-citizens, so I realized there was (and is) an important gap that I can cover.

Believe it or not, I have come across some individuals who have questioned my decision.

They said: “Why should I care about it?”.

It seems to me that nowadays one HAS to go to a poor country (ie any in Africa) to shoot a journalistic documentary. But I would like to quote a friend of mine in the trade…

“Why should I go to a poor country to patronise people there?”

Altogether, it made me feel even more stronger and sure of my decision. Europe offers plenty of opportunities for journalist to develop their work. We tend to take for granted that Europe is an uniform continent where several countries (especially those who joined the EU the last) have a completely different background to what we know as Western states.

Therefore, we have to bear in mind that no everyone enjoys the same standards of life and accessibility to necessary services.

Anyway, I know I took the right decision and I am going to prove it with my final output. Yet, I have plenty of things to sort out, the main ones are already arranged. The most important interviewees have booked me some of their time and I have even contacted non-citizens whose cases are being dealt at an international level.

So far so good… Keep following me to see how things go!!

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March 16, Latvian Legion Day

Latvia pays tribute every March 16 to its soldiers who back in World War II fought on the side of Nazi Germany in Waffen SS detachments. Every year hundreds of people sing patriotic songs and lay flowers at the Freedom Monument in downtown Riga. It’s the way Latvians honor their late Legionaires.

 

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First steps of this ‘baby’

 

Flag of Latvia

I set up this blog a month ago with a clear target in mind; give voice and words to all issue surrounding my next professional project, a twenty minute documentary on non-citizens in Latvia 20 years after the USSR collapsed.

During this period of time I got to introduce the problem to everyone, keep on reading on the subject and sort out different production issues such as interviews and plane tickets. For instance, I will be flying up to Riga (from London) on June 10th. My return ticket has July 4th printed on. So it will be almost four weeks on the ground to film throughout the country, get my interviews done and get deeper knowledge on the subject.

I want to find out more about non-citizens’ life in the Baltic country, as well as trying to analyse the reasons why there still are around 350 000 people (14.5 % of Latvia’s population) without a passport that identifies them as so, limiting their rights in some ways.

I know June is still far, but there is a lot to be done yet for my project. From this blog I will try to keep you all updated on my adventures, general information to bear in mind and topics on the subject that make the headlines.

However, the most important thing is that Social Integration in Latvia has already taken its first steps alongside over 300 visitors that have got a showed their interest in it during this time. Big thanks to all them and I hope you all enjoy the process that will shape this project. Don’t hesitate to post your comments and ideas!!

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