Out of Latvia: The Son of a Latvian Immigrant Searches for his Roots
South Coast writer David Kerr shares a story of two men, a generation apart, one growing up in the shadow of the other.
Peter Jirgens tells the story of his youth as the son of Arnold Jirgens, a Latvian immigrant, who struggled against discrimination and deceit to establish his family in Nowra, Australia. He shares the stories his father told him of the hardship of life under Soviet rule, his escape from Europe after World War Two and the early days of his new life as an immigrant in a land far from home.
Fiercely Latvian, Arnold Jirgens instils in his son a love for a country and people he has never seen. Arnold longs to return home, to see his homeland once more and find out if his remaining family has survived, but returning as a Latvian—and therefore Soviet—citizen could see him, and any son of his, incarcerated, drafted into the Soviet army or sent to Siberia.
Over the years, Arnold’s longing becomes Peter’s dream. Though his father is prepared to wait until the Soviets no longer control his country, Peter is not.
Prejudice and risk-taking mark Peter’s early years, from which he develops an ability to live on the edge and make the most of every situation. In 1980, against the wishes of his parents and the advice of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, twenty-seven year old Peter enters Soviet communist-controlled territory.
His thirst for adventure almost costs him his life.