WHY LEAVE?

Reasons for Leaving

Ervin's and Anna's happy family life was soon to come to an end as war escalated. WWII had started on 1 September 1939 when Hitler's German army invaded Poland. Latvia at this time was neutral.

Russian takeover

On 2 October 1939 Stalin called Latvia's foreign affairs minister Mr V Munters to the Kremlin for talks. He explained that the USSR wanted permission to set up military bases in Latvia as a military precaution. An agreement was signed to allow Russian entry. On 30 October the Russian army, navy and air force entered Latvia in the order of 30,000 personnel assuring Latvia and the Baltics that they intended no threat. However these were all lies as on 17 June 1940 Russian tanks invaded Latvia and took power. Latvia became unofficially annexed to the Soviet Union. In the next year a regime of terror began culminating in the events of 14 June 1941.

Deportations

In order to purge Latvia of all intellectuals and persons of influence Russian soldiers were sent in the night with trucks to people’s homes. At gunpoint people were told to pack a small bag and to come with the soldiers to an unknown destination. This manouvre was done quickly and quietly with many people awaking the next morning not realizing why so many were missing.

This was cleverly calculated and carried out in all three Baltic countries - Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Siberia

People were put onto cattle trucks similar to the Jews and taken thousands of miles away to Siberia and left there to their own devices. On 14 June about 15,000 people were taken from Latvia alone not to mention various other disappearances over the next months and years.My father's cousins and their families were taken and he never saw them again in his lifetime. My mother's relatives were also taken.

German occupation

In a surprise move on 22 June 1941 before sunrise the German Luftwaffe bombed the Russians at Liepaja airport. My parents remembered being woken up and shaken out of their beds. On 26 June the Germans occupied the town of Daugavpils, on 28 June they occupied Liepaja and on 1 July they entered the capital Riga. The Latvian population saw the Germans as their saviours but little did they know of their real motives. Thus began the German occupation of Latvia and in 1943 on 10 February Hitler ordered the formation of the Latvian Legion conscripting many thousands of men to fight with the Germans (nearly 142,000 men or 8% of Latvia's entire population) against the Russians. Ervins Apinis was conscripted and had to leave his wife and family.