3×3 Falls Creek viesosies Janta un Ilmārs Meži – iepazīsimies!

Nākošgad no Latvijas 3×3 Falls Creek, Austrālijā viesosies daudzpusīgie Janta un Ilmārs Meži. Iepazīsimies mazliet ar viņiem. Lai gan Mežiem ir kupla ģimene, uz 3×3 viņi tomēr dosies vieni paši.

Kāda jūsu pamatnodarbošanās, kādi vaļasprieki?

Janta ir botāniķe Latvijas Dabas muzejā, kur strādā ar izstāžu ierīkošanu, gan arī Latvijas augu kolekcijas papildināšanu. Savukārt Ilmārs strādā Starptautiskajā Migrācijas organizācijā, palīdzot imigrantiem brīvprātīgi atgriezties atpakaļ dzimtenē, ja tiem nav tiesību dzīvot Latvijā. Vaļasprieku mums ir daudz, no kuriem kopīgie ir saistīti ar latviešu tradicionālo kultūru un dabu. Mums ļoti patīk visiem izbraukt dabā – vai nu sēņot un ogot, vai ar laivām pa kādu nelielu upi, vai apceļot skaistas vietas.

Mums visiem liels pārsteigums bija uzzināt, ka jums ir viena no Latvijas “dižģimenēm” – ģimenē aug seši bērni! Kādos vecumos viņi ir?

Mums ir seši bērni: vecākā meita Ingrīda (24) jau strādā par zobārsta palīdzi, Silvija (21) mācās pēdējo gadu Latvijas Universitātes Bioloģijas fakultātē. Nākamā ir Lauma (16), kura mācās Rīgas Āgenskalna ģimnāzijā un interesējas par “mangām” un mitoloģiju, bet Jānis Viesturs (13) mācās Rīgas Doma kora skolā, ir īsts kora puika, kaut, protams, labprātāk spēlētu futbolu vai kādu datorspēli. Bet abi maziņie – Kalvis Ievalts (4) un Marta Austra (1) vēl dzīvojas pa māju un izstaro prieku un enerģiju.

Lūdzu pastāstiet par savu folkloras dzīvi. Janta – tu dziedi grupā “Saucējas”, un Ilmār, tu esi dziedātājs, kā arī mūzikas instrumentu kolekcionārs. Cik katrs dziedat, cik mūzicējat?

Esam dziedājuši jau no skolas gadiem – Janta ilgu laiku dziedāja “Saviešos”, bet tagad jau 5 gadus dzied Latvijas Kultūras akadēmijas grupā “Saucējas”, kas vāc un restaurē senākās tradicionālās dziesmas bez apdares, tieši tā, kā tās ir skanējušas agrāk, un kā tās vēl vecākie ļaudis atceras. Ilmārs agrāk ir dziedājis folkloras draugu kopā “Skandinieki”, bet tagad labprāt dzied un muzicē draugu un ģimenes pasākumos. Mums abiem ir īpaša interese vākt un atdzīvināt sen aizmirstās latviešu dziesmas – kopā esam izbraukājuši daudzus Latvijas lauku nostūrus meklējot cilvēkus, kuri vēl atceras seno laiku dziedāšanu. Dziesmu meklēšanā esam bijuši arī vairākos Sibīrijas latviešu ciemos, kur pierakstītās dziesmas dziedam un dodam tām jaunu dzīvi mūsdienās. Ilmārs pēdējā laikā ir aizrāvies arī ar mūzikas instrumentiem – īpaši ermoņiku kolekcionēšanu un spēlēšanu, bet spēlē arī cītaru, kas ir sens latviešu stīgu instruments, līdzīgs koklei.

Ilmār, Tavs darbs ir saistīts ar demogrāfijas un migrācijas pētniecību. Lūdzu pastāsti, kā radās interese darboties šinī laukā..
Jau skolas gados sāku interesēties par iedzīvotāju ģeogrāfiju – atceros sevi kā puiku, aptuveni 12-14 gadu vecumā, izrakstot no grāmatām Latvijas pilsētas un pagastus ar to iedzīvotāju skaitu un arī vācot pamatinformāciju par visām pasaules valstīm. Interese padziļinājās studējot Latvijas universitātes Ģeogrāfijas fakultātē, un vēlāk Rietumu Mičigānas universtitātē (ASV). Jau 18 gadus vadu Starptautiskās Migrācijas organizācijas nelielo biroju Rīgā, bet sabiedriskā kārtā esmu uzņēmies demogrāfijas politikas uzlabošanas mudinātāja pienākumus. Neatlaidīgi runājot ar žurnālistiem un politiķiem ir izdevies mazliet mainīt sabiedrisko domu, ka arī Latvijā ir nepieciešams lielāks atbalsts tām ģimenēm, kuras audzina vairākus bērnus, un svarīgi ir novērst nabadzību, kas daudzām ģimenēm rodās tāpēc, ka viņi vēlās vairākus bērnus. Vairākos gados ir izdevies rast dzirdīgas ausis arī politiķu un ierēdņu starpā, un pakāpeniski arī Latvijā tiek uzlabota demogrāfijas politika.

Vai esat piedalījušies 3×3 arī Latvijā? Un citur pasaulē?

Esam piedalījušies vairākos Latvijas 3×3 pasākumos kā lektori un praktisko nodarbību vadītāji, visspilgtākā atmiņā bija Alsungas nometne, kur varēja iedraudzēties ar dzīvespriecīgajām Suitu sievām. Esam arī bijuši 3×3 Garezerā vairākas reizes un senāk arī Katskiļos.

Janta, vai tev rokdarbi ir visu mūžu bijuši mīļi – vai no mātes, vecās mātes mācījies šīs mākas?

Protams, ka ar rokdarbiem nodarbojās gan mammiņa, gan vecmammiņa, toreiz jau tā bija ikdienas nepieciešamība – jo rocība daudziem neļāva neko daudz nopirkt, tāpēc rokdarbi bija labs risinājums. Jau 15 gadu vecumā sāku mācīties Rīgas Lietišķās mākslas vidusskolā, kur mācījos tekstila nodaļā. Mans diplomdarbs bija pašas gatavots tautastērps, un arī joprojām turpinu tos darināt – visai ģimenei un ārpus tās. Nesen pie manis sāka pulcēties sievietes, kam interesē savs tautas tērps un es varu palīdzēt – kam piegriezni izgriezt, kam uzsākt adījumu, kam iemācīt aust ar celiem, kam brunčus sašūt.

Kur dzīvojat Latvijā – vai pilsētas centrā, vai laukos?
Dzīvojam Rīgas laukos – jeb vienā no zaļākajām Rīgas nomalēm – Mārupē, ko precīzāk būtu saukt par Bieriņiem, bet šo veco nosaukumu daudzi neatpazīst. Tas ir plašākais Rīgas privātmāju apūves rajons, kur pie katras mājas ir lielāks vai mazāks dārzs. Mums ir liela māja, kura būvēta 1898.gadā, ko pamazām cenšamies atjaunot. Arī mums ir liels dārzs ar daudzām ābelēm, ķiršiem, plūmēm, ir arī izdevies ieaudzēt Latvijas vīnogas, persikus un aprikozes, kas visi nes saldus augļus. Blakus tek Mārupīte, no kuras mūsu dīķī iepeld līdakas, un pēdējā gadā pie mums ir apmeties dzīvot arī bebrs. Līdz Vecrīgai mums ir 50 minūšu gājiens, ko reizēm arī cenšamies veikt kājām vai riteņiem. Agrāk dzīvojām vienkāršos pilsētas centra dzīvokļos, tad ik katru brīvu dienu rāvāmies ārā uz laukiem, bet kopš pašiem ir māja ar dārzu, tad laprāt laiku pavadam tur.

Vai bērni jums arī interesējas par folkloru – rokdarbiem, dziedāšanu, latvisko dzīves ziņu?

Ar bērniem nav tik viegli – jo viņiem jāļauj iziet arī caur vecāku noliegšanas stadijai – nevaram lielīties, ka visi bērni ir aktīvi dziedātāji, muzicētāji vai tautas tērpu darinātāji. Bet lietas notiekas pamazām – vecākā meita pamazām ir sajutusi vajadzību gatavot linu kreklus, arī jostiņas. Savukārt Silvija ir aktīva dejotāja tautiskajos dančos – būtu tikai puišu tur vairāk:-) Domājam, ka ar laiku visi bērni sajutīs nepieciešamību darboties arī kādā latviešu tradīciju jomā.

Vai būsit Austrālijā pirmo reizi? Kas jums Austrālijā visvairāk interesē?

Austrālijā abi būsim pirmo reizi. Vistuvāk Austrālijai līdz šim esam ceļojuši uz Sibīrijas latviešu ciemiem un arī Indijā. Austrālijā ceram iepazīt gan dabu, gan cilvēkus un viņu kultūru – gan eiropejiešu, gan vietējo aborigēnu. Priecāsimies, ja izdosies uz kādu brīdi ienirt siltā jūras līcī pavērot krāsainās zivtiņas, kā arī ceram ieraudzīt kādu ķenguru bariņu. Visbeidzot ir arī maza cerība no Austrālijas vecākās paaudzes latviešiem dzirdēt kādu mums nepazīstamu dziesmu. Mūsu labākās teicējas Ķērstas Albužes (dz.Bubēris) brālis dzīvojot kaut kur Austrālijā – varbūt izdotos satikt arī viņu un parunāt par “veciem laikiem”.

Kas jums mīļākā nodarbe karstā vasaras dienā? Garajos ziemas vakaros?
Kā jau ziemeļniekiem mūsu ideālais vasaras siltuma komforts ir no 20-25 C, bet ja karstums pārsniedz 30 grādus, tad meklējam ēnu un ūdeni. Ziemā, kad ir tumšs un auksts – tad Ilmārs strādā ar arhīva datiem vācot latviešu uzvārdu sarakstu un to izplatību, bet Janta veic rokdarbus. Labā ziemas dienā, gan mēģinam ar bērniem slidot un slēpot, veidot sniegavīru.

Paldies par interviju! Tiksimies 3×3 janvārī!

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a member of the Education Board of the World Federation of Free Latvians and the translator into English of various books on industrial history in Latvia.

The Making of a Dziesmu Svētki, Part 3: Rīc Kom

You know the beginning of any good ensemble-cast blockbuster, where the ringleader travels to goofy locations collecting a ragtag bunch of specialized misfits to assemble his crack squad? The tough guy, the master thief, the tech nerd, the female. Collecting the squad that makes up the Rīc Kom (“rīcības komiteja,” or organizing committee) is just like that. I’m not saying that we’re all a bunch of superheroes, but, we’re basically all a bunch of superheroes.

Take our fearless leader, Marisa Gudrā (whose name fittingly translates to “Marisa the Wise”), the Professor X who oversees our shenanigans with stern, quiet patience. The Boston native pretty much majored in Running a Dziesmu Svētki, racking up degrees in Music, Economics, and Arts Management. She has served on the boards of the American Latvian Association and the American Latvian Youth Association, and has coordinated numerous events for the latter. Gudrā is a meticulous and precise workhorse, one of the best task jugglers I’ve ever encountered, and if it were in any way possible for a single person to organize and run an entire Latvian song festival singlehandedly, she’d be my pick. Alas, some jobs are just too big, and for those you need a ragtag team. You need…

The Rīc Kom! Separate from the festival’s talented program directors and their teams, the nine-member Rīc Kom handles overarching festival logistics and makes sure all the fragmented pieces come together. While program directors hail from all along the East Coast and beyond, Gudrā stuck with her fellow D.C. locals for Rīc Kom.

Four of us, Gudrā included, recently worked together on the Rīc Kom for 2015’s ALA Meistarsacīkstes, an annual sports tournament. Nik Timrots, in addition to working with the American Latvian Youth Association and the Joint Baltic American National Committee, was the head of this Meistarsacīkstes Rīc Kom and, having concocted the original Dziesmu Svētki plan with Gudrā, naturally took his place as her right-hand man. Working as a transportation manager for the University of Maryland Department of Transportation Services with 3 million annual passengers and 200 bus drivers under his watchful eye, Timrots is no stranger to large-scale logistics. He took a strong lead in early planning and research, contacting venues and hotels, and keeping initial efforts focused and broken down into smaller tasks.

Also sliding over from the Meistarsacīkstes Rīc Kom were Inga Bebre and myself. My Latvian society credits include work with children’s summer camp Katskiļi, the Latvian School of Washington, the Latvian Lutheran Church of Washington, and D.C. folk-dancing troupe Namejs.  Having been the webmaster for both Namejs and Meistarsacīkstes, I happily took on the Dziesmu Svētki roles of webmaster, secretary, and marketing-team member. I can think of nobody with whom I would rather work on any Latvian project than my longtime close friend Inga Bebre, one of the most organized and dependable people I have ever met. From our time together in Namejs and Meistarsacīkstes, I know that if you want something done and done well, with a solid system in place, it should be delegated to her. Bebre most notably demonstrated her abilities while serving as the head of the Rīc Kom for the American Latvian Youth Association Congress in D.C., a complicated assignment with countless moving parts. Dependability, a mastery of spreadsheets, organizational skills, and attention to detail make Bebre the perfect candidate for one of Dziesmu Svētki’s most complicated and detail-driven tasks: ticket sales.

Gudrā wasn’t done recruiting fellow Namejs dancers.  She broached the subject of a Baltimore Dziesmu Svētki with former dancer Juris Mohseni, a Sudrabavots folk group singer and accordion player, while watching a football game. His first reaction? “Excited! Thought it would be cool!” he later told me with a huge grin. But then, “Didn’t think I would have ANY part of it!” Attending?  Sure!  Actually leading the thing? Not so much. His mind was changed by the enthusiasm of his brother, Imants, another Namejs member being recruited by Gudrā. “I wanted to do something our grandmother would be proud of, even though she’s not with us anymore,” Imants explained somberly. That sentiment got to Juris, and he committed 100%, taking on the high-pressure job of treasurer for Latvian-American society’s most expensive event. Not that Juris is at all daunted by the task; as a professional budget analyst, he’s used to dealing with billion-dollar-plus budgets (as well as his homeowners association’s $13,000 budget) on a daily basis. While Juris took on one of the most traditional Rīc Kom roles, Imants took on something newer: project technology.

“We didn’t even know that we needed all this technology, but I think it revolutionized the way that we work,” Gudrā said about Imants’s contribution. “He’s the wizard.” While Dziesmu Svētki as an event hasn’t changed much over the generations, the way in which it is organized certainly has thanks to the role of technology (imagine how much our grandparents would have appreciated MP3s while learning songs and YouTube while learning dances). Imants is responsible for researching, implementing, and patiently helping the rest of us understand the best use of technology, from online registration forms and payment options, to team workflow programs that keep Rīc Kom working efficiently — all achievements his grandmother never would have imagined in her day, but of which I am sure she is proud nonetheless.

A song and dance festival cannot survive with dancers alone, and neither can its Rīc Kom.   An enthusiastic music lover who sings in the choir at every Dziesmu Svētki, Aivars Osvalds has been active in Latvian-American society for as long as I can remember, holding positions with the American Latvian Association, the World Federation of Free Latvians, the Latvian Lutheran Church of Washington, the Lettonia fraternal organizations, and the Baltic countries exhibition at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. A lot of us knew him as the primary mover and shaker behind the re-emergence of youth seminar 2×2, where passion and drive for the project really made it take off (having attended the first of these seminars in West Virginia, I can personally attest to the success of this effort, as it proved to be one of the most inspirational weeks of my life). It was this exact drive and passion that we needed, especially to pull off a project of this size in such a short timespan, and Osvalds has definitely not been a disappointment in this regard. Brought on board to handle evening events, a colossal project on its own, he was immediately enthusiastic to help wherever needed, volunteering to work on fundraising, hotel contacts, and many other loose ends that have crept up throughout the planning process.

Osvalds immediately suggested bringing in his friend Iveta Grava, the only Rīc Kom member with prior experience in organizing a Dziesmu Svētki. Born and raised in Latvia, Grava’s extensive experience in the Latvian arts scene include not just leadership roles with two Dziesmu Svētki in Latvia, but also work at the Latvian National Opera and the World Federation of Free Latvians, membership in the prestigious Ave Sol choir, and a lifetime of music education (including a degree in harp performance). Originally slated to be our main point of contact with Latvian performers and organizations, Grava soon also took on fundraising and theatre duties, and provides beautiful Latvian-language prose for the festival’s promotional material. She describes her involvement with the Latvian saying “Iedod velnam mazo pirkstiņu un viņš paņem visu roku” (“Give the devil your pinkie and he takes your entire arm”). In other words, she was hooked like the rest of us.

Gudrā’s recruitment tale might have ended here, until fate twisted its chilly way into Gudrā’s commute one winter morning. She sat on the metro train reading some bad news on her phone: an email from a potential team member turning down one of our largest remaining positions: volunteer coordinator. Gudrā didn’t have too much time to dwell in her disappointment, however, because just then a stranger sitting nearby introduced herself. Aija Moeller, who usually rides her bike to work but was driven onto the metro due to the bitter cold, noticed Latvian symbols on Gudrā’s winter scarf. They got to talking, and soon discovered two amazing things about one another. Moeller, who had moved to D.C. from Latvia years earlier, had just read in the local church bulletin about potential Dziesmu Svētki plans and had made up her mind to offer her services. And here before her sat the very woman she had intended to contact. And Gudrā, freshly mourning her lack of a volunteer coordinator, was amazed to hear what her new acquaintance did for a living: Moeller was a volunteer coordinator for a non-profit. Newly minted as the Dziesmu Svētki volunteer coordinator, but acknowledging that she had little to do in that regard for months to come, Moeller threw herself into other essential projects, organizing the film festival, joining the marketing team, and patiently proofreading various materials.

So that’s us.  I’ll be honest: I’d never really given much thought to the Rīc Kom during previous festivals. After all, the buzz surrounding a Dziesmu Svētki is, rightly, about the excitement of seeing friends, sharing culture, dancing all day and all night; it’s not about the person filling out 501c3 paperwork.  I’ve listed here some of the relevant experience of our members, but the truth is that there’s only one thing that anyone actually needs to know about us. It’s a response that I received independently from two separate Rīc Kom teammates when I interviewed them for this article. “We are all volunteers and I think that is the answer to ‘what qualifies you to work on this,’” wrote one.

Or, as another member laughed when asked what qualifies him, “I’m willing to show up, right?”

“The Making of a Dziesmu Svētki” is an ongoing series documenting the behind-the-scenes process of organizing a Latvian song and dance festival.

The XIV Latvian-American Song and Dance Festival will take place in Baltimore, Maryland, from June 29 to July 3, 2017. For more information, please visit the Festival website or write to info@latviansongfest2017.com.

World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum to be held in Australia

The Australian Latvian 56th Arts Festival will be held in Melbourne this year. During the Festival another event – the World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum is scheduled for 29th and 30th December. Latvians Online spoke to the coordinator of the forum, Kristīne Saulīte.

What do you aim to achieve with this forum – to be held in Australia, so far away from Latvia?

Firstly, I’d like to mention that the President of Latvia, Mr. Raimonds Vējonis, is patron of this event and the forum is being organised in conjunction with the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia. This is a jointly organised forum, as the Latvian government understands the desirability for Latvia to find new export markets outside Europe. The event has also been officially announced as one of Latvia’s centenary events (Latvia will be celebrating 100 years in 2018).

There are two main aims of the forum. Firstly, the interaction of the Latvian government with our diaspora has, until now, mainly been in the cultural arena and very little collaboration has taken place in the economic sphere — either in export, investment or sharing of expertise and knowledge. It’s time for those Latvians living outside of Latvia to share their experiences with Latvian-based entrepreneurs.

I mean this in a practical sense: for instance, what are the expectations if you wish to conduct business in Australia or other countries in this region? What are market realities, what is the business climate like and what are the business etiquettes in this region? It’s important to realise that you can’t conduct business in other countries relying on the business standards and practices of your own country. In order to be able to successfully develop an export business, you need to understand the business culture of the market that you are entering. You need to conduct market research, make contacts with others in the industry, research the best way to promote your product, and many other tasks associated with export.

The second aim is to attract business leaders of Latvian heritage living in the Asia/Pacific region, entrepreneurs or other business specialists interested in developing contacts and/or business projects in Latvia and to give them the opportunity to network with like-minded people.

Australia was chosen for the 2016 Forum as it is a stable, economically developed and mature country in the region with longstanding business connections in the strategically important countries of the region. Also, it is a particularly significant time at the moment, as the European Union is actively working towards establishing free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand and other ASEAN countries. This could be a very appropriate time for Latvian businesses with a view to export to explore this region, and the intention is that our forum might better equip them to enter these markets.

This networking opportunity will give Australian and Latvian businesses a chance to meet, exchange ideas, provide a forum to learn about the Australian markets and business culture. There is no guarantee for anyone that this forum will lead to the signing of business deals, yet the personal connections participants will make will be invaluable and could serve as a springboard for further collaboration between businesses.

The previous World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum was held in 2015. This next one is being organised only a year later. Why so?

The two year gap between the first and second forums held in Rīga highlighted a certain loss of momentum by not having an annual event. Introducing a regional forum outside of Latvia on the “off years” that the Riga forum is not being held, will not only enhance continuity, but will also expand the quality of interactions available. With this in mind, the next regional forum outside of Latvia is anticipated to be held in the United States.

Have any participants from Latvia already confirmed they will be attending?

The opening session will be dedicated to Latvia’s vision for growth and building ties with Asia Pacific region. Participants in this session will be Dace Melbārde (Latvian Minister for Culture), Egīls Levits, (Judge at the Court of Justice of the European Union), and a Latvian Ambassador from the Asia Pacific Region. Other confirmed participants include Lāsma Līdaka from LIAA (Investment and Development Agency of Latvia) and Jānis Endziņš, representing LTRK (Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry).

A number of Latvian business owners are planning to attend – representatives from Latvijas Finieris (a large Latvian plywood company), Jānis Ošlejs, owner of Primex (industrial concrete floor construction), Arnis Petrānis from Peruza (customised production equipment), owner of translation services company Linearis – Voldemārs Brēdiķis and Jānis Jenzis, owner of a number of wine bars and restaurants in Rīga. Some of our ex-diaspora Latvians now living in Latvia will also be in Melbourne – Krišjānis Putniņš, owner of popular folk club ALA Pagrabs in Vecrīga, Pēteris Stupāns, Founder and Managing Director at Nordplay SIA, and Arnis Kākulis, Regional Director of AECOM (engineering design firm) and President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Latvia.

Why is the forum being held during the Latvian Arts festival (Kultūras dienas)?

As there will be a large concentration of Latvians in one place, similar to the Latvian “Dziesmu Svētki” (Latvian National Song Festival, held every five years) we thought this the perfect time to organise this event. The forum has been coordinated with the Latvian Arts Festival organising committee and we have scheduled not to overlap with major festival events, but rather to complement their offering.

Where will the event be held?

In the centre of Melbourne – at the Rydges Hotel, Exhibition Street.

What will be the format of the event?

The first day (29th December) will be devoted to panel discussions related to Latvia building ties with the Asia Pacific region both from a visionary perspective as well as the practical side of conducting business in this region and 30th December will comprise a day of technical tours. These will be visits to various local businesses outside of Melbourne to see how they operate. This will also provide the opportunity for people to meet and network in a less formal environment.

What will be the working language of the event?

The event will be held in English, to maximize accessibility and reach out to as many interested participants as possible.

For more information have a look at the PLEIF website or the PLEIF LinkedIn page or Facebook page.

 

 

 

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a member of the Education Board of the World Federation of Free Latvians and the translator into English of various books on industrial history in Latvia.