Jaunā Gaita nr. 170, decembris 1988

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JG 170

Raimonds Staprāns deals with a painful subject for Latvians - our complete lack of military resistance to the Soviet invasion of June 1940 - in his new play "Four Days in June". Jaunā Gaita is printing the play in two parts, with the first part in this issue. The play's main characters are historical persons: Latvia's president Kārlis Ulmanis, his secretary and his military adjutant. The play's dialogue and action is based on the personal diaries of the characters and on the memories of other people closely involved in the events leading up to the invasion. In Staprāns' view, the decision not to resist was made by Ulmanis alone, on the assumption that more Latvian lives would be lost by resisting than by submitting to a Soviet occupation. The play takes place in Ulmanis' office, as Ulmanis prepares his speech for a song festival in Latgale, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the Soviet Union has demanded the resignation of the Lithuanian government, shot down an Estonian passenger airplane, and blockaded the port of Rīga, all within the last 2 days.

One of Ulmanis' closest friends, who later bitterly opposed his dictatorship, Dr. Miķelis Valters, was actively involved in the founding of the independent Latvian republic, and served as an ambassador abroad until World War II. We reprint an article written by Valters in 1943, describing the reasons why he originally proposed the founding of a broadly-based Latvian National Guard ("Aizsargi") and his later disillusionment with the Guard's role in the establishment and maintenance of the Ulmanis dictatorship.

Imants Sakss contributes an interesting history of Latvian political songs, from 1905 to 1945, covering the entire political spectrum from left (the "Internationale") to right (the hymn of the extreme nationalist organisation "Pērkonkrusts"), while Andrievs Ezergailis has compiled character sketches of three of the Latvian Bolsheviks who were influential in the October Revolution: the first Soviet justice minister Pēteris Stučka, the ruthless Jēkabs Peterss, and the commander of the Red Army's eastern front, and later its over-all commander, Gen. Jukums Vācietis. Vācietis' autobiographical sketch was written in the early 1920's, and it reflects the idealism of the time, with a vivid description of Vācietis' childhood and youth from a proper Bolshevik perspective. The sketches of Stučka and Peterss are from a 1923 book by American journalist Louise Bryant.

Two of the three short stories printed in JG 169 were read by their authors at the Latvian Song Festival held in Indianapolis in July 1988. In this issue we print some of the poetry read at the festival, by Modris Mednis, Valda Dreimane, Indra Gubiņa, Rita Gāle, Aivars Ruņģis, Sniedze Ruņģe, Jānis Gorsvāns, Ivars Lindbergs, Aina Kraujiete and Astrīde Ivaska. Ruņģis expresses the despair of the emigre writer: "Listening to the sound of my own voice, I address you... perhaps never to meet you, to whom I will remain unknown... - I am part of you!" Kraujiete, Lindbergs and Gāle reflect the national re-awakening in their poems, and Gorsvāns affirms belief in the impossible: "Someday fish will sing..."

The poetry section ends with the work of a poet from Latvia, Dina Bitēna-Sirmā. Her poems contain expressions of the new hope for freedom, and ironic comments on life in present-day Latvia. Her poem dedicated to the memory of Aleksandrs Čaks begins with the delightful image "Morning threaded a strand of wind / through the tip of the church spire / and sewed to the sky / the sun's yellow button."

Actor and playwright Uldis Siliņš kept a diary of the preparations for another of the July song festival's events - the musical "Gundega", based on the fairy-tale play "Princess Gundega and King Roughbeard" by Anna Brigadere. "Gundega" brought together the emigre community's finest talent: director Māris Ubāns, composer and conductor Andrejs Jansons, singers Laila Saliņš and Pauls Berkolds, set designer Evalds Dajevskis, and many others. The result was an excellent production enjoyed by almost 5000 people over its 4 performances. However, as Siliņš describes in this issue with his usual good humour, "Gundega" had quite a rough journey before reaching Indianapolis.

The Russian dissident poet Joseph Brodsky won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1987. Aleksandra Eiche has contributed an article on 6 of Brodsky's essays for this issue: those dealing with his parents and youth, the poets Anna Achmatova and Marina Tsvetayeva, and memoirist Nadyezhda Mandelshtam. The lives and poetry discussed by Brodsky in these essays have much in common with Latvian history and literature.

Juris Silenieks has contributed 2 reviews to this issue, one on recent plays by Pauls Putniņš and Gunārs Priede, and the other on Laima Kalniņa's short story collection Where the Rivers Meet. Other reviews are by Mārtiņš Lasmanis and Herberts Zālītis. Voldemārs Avens writes about the meeting of Latvian artists in the Catskills, and Lidija Dombrovska Larsen reports on the exhibition of paintings by Gunta Pārupe in Perth, Australia.

The cover is by Maija Šlesere and the frontispiece is one of a series done in Saudi Arabia by Raimonds Slaidiņš. The sculpture on page 18, depicting the Latgallian nation's struggle for its rights, is by Ontons Zvīdris.



Ilze Valdmanis

Jaunā Gaita