The Amber Coast, a Latvian Family’s Journey is about much more than the struggles of one family to survive the war in Latvia and find refuge elsewhere. It is about the courage that is necessary for any refugee to abandon everything that is familiar and dear and set out into the unknown. It is about the determination of families to stay together and hold on to the values that they cherish. It is about the belief that a better life is possible.
My family fled Latvia, found temporary shelter in a defeated, chaotic, Third Reich, then immigrated to Sweden and finally settled in Canada. Having lived in many countries, both in my childhood and after marriage, issues of displacement, belonging, language acquisition, and cultural identity continue to interest me.
A big question for all immigrants is how to maintain one’s cultural identity and language while at the same time adapting to a new culture and learning a new language. In many families, this is a source of conflict, especially as the children get older. In my family, we spoke Latvian at home and English elsewhere. For many years I felt that I lived in two worlds – a Latvian one at home and in the Latvian community and another outside the home, at school and girl guides and in the neighbourhood parks, which to confuse things even more, was French Canadian! In The Amber Coast: A Latvian Family’s Journey I describe how one family struggled with this issue.
In providing historical context, I want to show that the lives of my characters – and by extension - our lives are never static. Events happening beyond familiar boundaries and decisions made by strangers often have far-reaching consequences. Many of us are burdened by memories, patterns of behaviour, attitudes, and fears that we understand only poorly, and struggle to overcome. How well we understand these and adapt to new realities often determines how happy and successful we are in our chosen way of life. The Amber Coast: A Latvian Family’s Journey does not pretend to have the right answer for everyone, but it does show what is possible.