Tija Karklis, United States Saint Paul

Toreiz man bija 25

Vecrīgas mezgls; Old Town Riga’s knot in the chain

I am Latvian-American, born and raised with a deep love for and devotion to the Latvian heritage. I am writing this in English only for the benefit of those who may not speak the beautiful languages of the Baltics.

I was in my early 20’s during the Baltic independence movement. By the summer of 1989 I was applying for Soviet visas on a regular basis to be in my homeland, firmly embedded in the flow of events moving us ever closer towards our goal.

On the day of the Baltic Way, I was in Riga. Having no means of getting to the more remote areas of the human chain, I ventured out on foot and landed smack-dab in Old Town Riga, on the corner of Valnu and Kalku streets. I was only one of many who had gathered there, and we had to squeeze together to give everyone a place in the chain. It was like a busy knot in the long chain. I remember the atmosphere being almost festive and people being in good spirits. I remember that a radio could be heard broadcasting patriotic music, but it was barely audible over own enthusiastic comments and songs. It was empowering to be linked – by hand and in spirit – with people I would normally consider strangers, united in a peaceful, affirmative show of our fierce desire for self-determination. The courage and strength we emanated from that Baltic chain was palpable, indelible.

I feel blessed to have held hands in the Baltic Way. In the words of William Wordsworth, “Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!” The Baltic Way was just one of the many clever ways that we made our voices rise above the din of global politics. It is particularly remarkable to me that our struggle for freedom was a non-violent process, as we were armed with little more than flowers and songs. Many doubted us, but here we are, 25 years later and still enjoying freedom, democracy and the right to shape our destiny. They say that half the battle is to gain it; the other half is to protect it once gained. This now remains our most crucial responsibility.

Paldies, thank you to the authors of this website for the opportunity to reminisce and rejoice in our achievements!