Letter on Birch Bark from Siberia by Gražina Gaidene, May 15, 1949
On August 5, 1940, the independent country of Latvia was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union, after having been occupied by the Red Army in June of that year. Estonia and Lithuania suffered a similar fate. Thousands of Latvians were arrested for having anti-Soviet views, taking part in resistance movements, being farmers, belonging to political parties, or refusing to join a collective farm. Many were deported to Siberia. People who were in prisons, concentration camps, or settlements in Siberia wrote letters to friends and relatives in Latvia on birch bark, which was often the only available material at places of deportation. This was particularly the case during World War II, when paper was very scarce. Only 19 such letters, dating from 1941 to 1956, survive in Latvian museums. They are important documents for the history of Latvia and of the Soviet era and a vivid record of the effects of mass repression on individual lives. This letter, dated May 15, 1949, is a name-day greeting to Sofija Milda Meldere (1899–1988) from her neighbor, Gražina Gaidene (1911–89), who was at the Novostroyka camp in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia. The left side is a drawing with flowers and a distant landscape with pine trees; the right side is text, handwritten in ink. Meldere, her husband, and three children were deported in 1941. Gaidene was a Lithuanian teacher deported in 1948.
Type of Item
1 letter : ink on birch bark, color ; 9 x 13.7 centimeters
- This document forms part of the collection of letters on birch bark from Siberia assembled for the World Digital Library by the National Library of Latvia. The document is from the Tukums Museum.
Last updated: February 12, 2016