Dear God, I wanted to live

By the time I was 15, I was beginning to get interested in my roots, I was always asking my relatives and friends about Latvia, “How does it look?” and “ Why thousands of Latvians left the country years ago?” One day my grandmother turned over her belongings,  presented me with a book that could be interesting to me, because it was a book with historical details of Latvia.

I confess that I was never a “book lover”, but that one had awakened in me a will to read. My grandmother said the book was short, which she would have read in a afternoon.

Book’s cover in Portuguese Language

I was presented with the book “Dear God, I wanted to live” in Latvian, “Vēl tā gribejas dzīvot”, a manuscript translated by Yolanda Mirdza Krievin and published by the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Community of Brazil in 1982.

The book tells the history of Ruta Ūpe, a 14-year-old Latvian girl, forcibly taken with other thousands of people to the labor camps, subjected to torture and humiliation in the confines of Siberia.

Ruta describes in her memories the moments of the sad loss of her freedom and life, the inhuman and exhausting slavery conditions, facing the Siberian cold, the lack of decent housing and medical care, the struggle for daily bread and the loss of family members in the course of time. Through notes in a Diary, Ruta could remain strong and mentally healthy, recording all the horrors she passed, along with relatives and friends.

After a few years, I had the opportunity to visit Latvia for the first time, and there, I visited museums that gave me the explanations of my doubts: “Why did all that happen in Ruta’s life?” “What had she or her family done to deserve that?”

I discovered that not only in Latvia, but the three Baltic states (including Estonia and Lithuania), when dominated by the Soviets, the Socialist ideology was meant to be applied without much disturbance to the opponents, those who had academic knowledge, who did not agree with the practices of the system, and who did not want to give up their private possessions, constituted that great congregation of innocent sufferers; some with wounds that never healed.

Itinerary followed by Latvians from Riga to labour camps in Novosirbirisky, Siberia.

Children inside the deportation wagon

Today, older and with a more mature mind, I reread the book, and I was able to pay attention to information that made me shiver, and sometimes cry, because I went through places in Latvia where Ruta was.

Obi river passing trough Novosibirsky city, place where Ruta reports in her book

Bauska town, where Ruta lived after her return to Latvia.

The book “Dear God, I wanted to live” is a valuable work comparable to the famous “The Diary of Anne Frank”, a work rich in information about how those people suffered the consequences of a totalitarian and unfair regime. The deportations of the population of the Baltic countries to Siberia is a recent event, and in 2018 it will complete only 77 years.

The publication of this book was one of the last wishes of Ruta, before leaving this world, because she wanted it as a revenge against the communists, showing the world that the innocent blood of the Latvian dead cries also for revenge. This book should be for us the living memory of all the events of the past that must never be forgotten, even our free world trying to hide and forget.

Ruta concludes her memories with Poet Skalbe’s words: “Many were your martyrs, my little homeland.”

“One more life that joined the shadows of the martyrs who died, a life that had to tread the long path of the others and then die, even though her will to live was so great.”

Lucas Stepanow Eksteinas

Brazilian Latvian, Logistics Student at the Faculty of Technology of São Paulo State.
Admirer of Latvia, its people and culture.
Volunteer of the Brazilian Association of Latvian Culture.

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