Brigita Liepiņa, a longtime member of the Melbourne Latvian community and former editor of the weekly newspapaer Austrālijas Latvietis, died March 16. She was 80.
Liepiņa was born July 30, 1930, in Daugavpils to Mārtiņš and Alīda Slociņš. Her father was a draughtsman with the railways.
Liepiņa had completed the local primary school when the Second World War interrupted life in independent Latvia. In 1944, when the Soviet army approached Latvia for the second time, the Slociņš family, like many other Latvians, sought refuge in the West. As a family of a railway employee they were able to take the train to the seaport of Ventspils. The family, including Brigita and her younger sister, Ilga, left Latvia by ship on Oct. 13, 1944, the day the Russians captured the Latvian capital of Rīga.
At the end of the war the family was in a refugee camp in Itzehoe, Western Germany, where Liepiņa completed her high school education.
The family then chose to emigrate to Australia.
Liepiņa was the first of the family to go, spending her 19th birthday crossing the equator and arriving in Western Australia in 1949. She was sent to work in a small country town and a year later was able to sponsor the rest of the family to come to Australia. After Liepiņa completed her two-year contract with the government, she joined the family in Wangaratta, near Melbourne.
After the Slociņš family moved Melbourne, she started studies at Melbourne University in 1953 and in 1964 graduated with a bachelor’s degree in commerce.
On a trip to Adelaide to attend the Australian Latvian Arts Festival (Kultūras dienas), Brigita met Elmārs Liepiņš. They fell in love and married in 1955. In 1956, their daughter Valda was born.
Liepiņa worked as a mathematics teacher at North Blackburn High School in Melbourne. After she obtained a degree in data processing, she worked at Fibremakers Australia and later at Deakin University until she retired.
Liepiņa was very interested in political and national events in Latvia. She was active in promoting the Popular Front (Tautas fronte) in Australia and other nationalist activities. For five years, she managed Austrālijas Latvietis, and also worked with a Latvian radio program in Australia as well as serving as the media representative of the World Federation of Free Latvians (Pasaules brīvo latviešu apvienība, or PBLA). In 2009, the PBLA honored her with a certificate of recognition for editing the newspaper.
Liepiņa is survived by her daughter, Valda; sister Ilga and her husband Bill; niece Anda, husband David and daughters Kate and Alice; niece Zaiga, husband Viktors and sons Mārtiņš and Kondrads; and other relatives.
A funeral service for Liepiņa was conducted March 22 at Fawkner Memorial Park in Melbourne.
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