Monday, November 17, 2014

Happy 96th, Latvia!

Latvia celebrates Independence Day on November 18 to commemorate its declaration of independence in 1918. (May 4 is celebrated as Restoration of Independence Day to commemorate Latvia proclaiming its independence from the Soviet Union in 1990.) For the last several years, Latvian TV has created moving video greeting; for example, for the country's 94th birthday, the video featured 94 Latvians around the country stating their age, from one all the way to 94 (great for helping kids learn to count!). For this year's video the crew traveled around Latvia's border, and filmed individuals and small groups singing a song. Although Latvia is known as the singing nation, not every person in the country is musically gifted, and one has to express appreciation of and gratitude to the 96 people who participated in this greeting, no matter what their musical ability is!

The text of the song is a poem by Imants Ziedonis, a much loved poet and cultural figure who passed away in 2013 at the age of 79. It touches upon issues which are quite relevant to Latvia (and many countries) today: the importance of working together, respecting one another, giving freely of oneself and one's talents. The song's melody is by the popular post-folk group Iļģi, and the song was included on their album "Riti, riti." Although I own that CD, the song had not made an impression on me, and I much prefer this version.

Mīl katrs baltu maizes riku,
es mīlu lauku rudenspliku,
kad tas stāv kluss un atbrīvots,
kad beidzies apkūlību gods,
nekas nav palicis vairs topus,
viss savācies, un beidzot kopus
mēs varam, brāļi, pasēdēt
un norunāt, ka vairāk pret
viens otru sliktu nedarīsim,
jo mūži ir kā rudzi īsi
un galā viena vārpa vien;
pat, ja nav vēja, katru dien`
es otri vārpai paklanos,
es negaidu, ka man ko dos,
es stāvu stiebrā, zaļā kāta,
man tikai ziedēšana prātā,
un graudi, ko es tikko jaužu,
tie manī ir jau mūsuļaužu.

When I visited Latvia earlier this year, I also drove to Lithuania, and used the opportunity to take a photo of the border while driving from Priekule municipality toward the Lithuanian town of Skuodas. Given the European Union's open borders, there are no guards, no passport checkpoints, nothing other than a pole and sign which remind a traveler that one has crossed into a different country. 
Although Latvia is both geographically and demographically a relatively small country, its history and culture are rich, its language unique, its people hard-working and talented, and I am proud to call myself Latvian.

Happy birthday, Latvia!


  1. Love the video! Sveiks svētkos!

    1. These videos are always *so* well done.

      Lai jums jauka svetku svinesana rit!


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