Thursday, 19 June 2008

Baltic Holocaust

In June each year the Baltic people remember the mass deportations of Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians from their homelands to Soviet slave labor and extermination camps that occurred in June 1941. Some 60 000 people were taken from their homes on the nights of June 13 and 14th. Men, women and children starved in cattle trucks en route to Siberia. Many died of cold and disease in the Gulag archipelago.

Each year the Baltic communities gather to commemorate these events so not to forget. A church service is usually held with a laying of a wreath.

In 1988, the 75th year from this tragedy was commemorated with a public demonstration that began at the War Memorial on North Terrace. Balts dressed in traditional costumes carried flags and laid wreaths at the steps of the war memorial. Youth dressed in black with their faces painted white displayed numbers on the front of their clothes. The numbers represented the thousands who perished.

After the laying of the wreaths those present moved to the Adelaide Town Hall. The youth dressed in black, stood on the steps leading into the Town Hall, so each entrant could count the number of people lost. A combined Baltic choir sang “Advance Australia Fair” and “Requiem”. The Baltic Council president Maret Kneebone spoke, followed by Ilze Radzins who read an Estonian and Latvian poem. After an interval cellist Janis Laurs played which was followed by songs sung by the Lithuanian and Estonian choirs. To finish the combined choirs sung the national anthems of each country.

A plaque has also been placed at the Migration Museum, remembering the atrocities of 1941. The Balts were the first to place a plaque outside the entrance to the museum, which is now surrounded by other nationalities who wish to remember atrocities that occurred in their own country.

Musu Pastoge 4/7/1988 nr 26

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