Fleeing for her life along with thousands of others in the face of the Soviet invasion, my mother left Latvia towards the end of World War 2 in the autumn of 1944. As I sift through her box of photographs I have tried to put myself in her shoes. I try to imagine what it would have felt like to leave behind not only your home and possessions but also your friends. These tiny scraps of photographs with handwritten messages on the back are testament to the rupture of her world and the dispersal of her friends. It must have been very difficult to keep in touch in those times but somehow they managed to let each other know of their whereabouts even though they were scattered throughout Europe. The pictures are dated from late 1944 onwards - but many of them were obviously taken in earlier, happier times. Some have two dates - the date when the photo was taken and the date when sent. The place names in Germany are presumably the locations of the Displaced Persons Camps where refugees were housed. Some, obviously having escaped beyond Germany, have been sent from Denmark or Belgium. One is ominously inscribed ‘in detention’. Despite their circumstances, they speak of happy memories, dreams and hopes for the future, no doubt thinking they would all at some point return home….
What lies behind these photographs is a feeling of solidarity, a strengthening of the bonds of friendship and a determination to carry on. The human spirit is strong and I hope that they all survived to make a new life for themselves as my mother did. But for the viewer there is, as always accompanying the act of looking at photographs of the past, a feeling of pathos and sadness…..