Some months ago I asked dad what he would do if he finally won his millions of dollars. What did he need that he didn’t already have? His response after some thought was, “I would like to go back to Latvia one more time.” My response was, “We can do that right now!”
With some coaxing from my sister Susan and her husband, we were able to get dad to commit to a trip to Latvia this July. This is the first installment of the story of Vitauts fourth trip back to Latvia.
A little history
Dad left Latvia in 1944 and did not go back until 1985. He had not seen his family for over 40 years. At that time, it was occupied by the Soviet Union, and he was not allowed to travel through the country. He could only visit his mother at the hotel Riga.
We don’t know much about the next two trips. He went back again in 1991 and 1997. On those trips he was able to see his extended family including his sister Austra, his nephew Janis and his great-niece Gita along with some of the Grinbergs family.
His memory is a bit spotty, so he doesn’t remember those trips or who he met and how he spent his time. We just know he was here and did go to Cesis and Smiltene, the town he lived near when he was growing up on the farm.
Liesma never went back nor did she show any interest, but dad was always fond of his home country.
July 7, 2016
Vitauts, Susan, her husband Glen, and I left Omaha at 11:30 a.m. Our flights were smooth and mostly uneventful. We thought the hardest part of the trip would be getting dad from flight to flight in each of the airports, but we had plenty of time, and he kept up pretty well. He was, of course, disoriented, but he did okay.
The big flight was from Chicago to Frankfurt which took 7 hours. Dad slept most of the way and was relatively comfortable. He worried a lot about where the bathrooms were and whether he could get there or not. This seems to be a primary concern of his now that he is older. I know the feeling.
The Frankfurt to Riga flight was short and sweet. We landed and Ansis and Bruno, my cousins on my mother’s side, were there to greet us. Everything worked out perfectly.
July 8, 2016
The trip took almost exactly 24 hours with the time change, and we were completely exhausted, but we took Ansis’ advice and stayed awake for the whole day (with a couple of short catnaps in the apartment).