“I felt cleansed and powerful”: Latvian diaspora tattoos and their meaning

In September, 2023 I embarked on a small study of Latvians living outside Latvia to learn what getting a tattoo means to them. Having noticed many young Latvians with tattoos at the Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Latvia in 2023, I assumed this is purely a millennial and Gen Z way of expressing their Latvian identity. What is their reason for getting tattoos? Are they purely aesthetic – merely “cool” designs – or maybe a good talking point in conversations with locals in the country where they live? Or do they have deep meaning to the wearer, signifying their heritage or a bond with certain people in their lives?

The survey was disseminated online in September/ October 2023 via the website Latvians Online and social media platforms Facebook and Instagram. The response was quite remarkable! It appeared that I had touched on a subject that had not been researched before  in the Latvian community abroad – and people were more than willing to share their stories. Comments at the end of the survey confirmed that this topic was interesting to many as respondents were also keen to be informed about the findings of the survey, and some even commented that this is a “cool” research topic.

A total of 266 people respondend to the online survey and another handful replied in the comments section on the website. Of these respondents, 30 took part in a more in-depth round of questions later, delving a bit deeper into the reasoning and back story behind their decision to get Latvian tattoos. This quick analysis will only cover some of the answers to the survey questions – those that could be most of interest. More detailed data analysis will feature in an academic journal article later.

What do the tattoos depict?

Overwhelmingly, 92% of respondents stated that it was a Latvian symbol or word. The answer to the million dollar question – which Latvian symbol (raksts) is most popular  for a tattoo? It was a toss up between four – Auseklis, Saulīte, Austras koks, and Laimas slotiņa. Which one came out on top? Only by a narrow margin – it was Saule/Saulīte, followed by Auseklis, with Laimas slotiņa hot on its heels. Austras koks/Tree of life was not far behind in popularity.

So what did respondents say about these symbols? Many meanings were attributed to saule/sun sign/ saulīte: growth, fertility, feminine energy, good luck,  light, the mother of the earth, health, positivity, light persevering over darkness. Other respondents mentioned a more personal relevance – related to their connection with their heritage, ancient knowledge, history, Latvia, a sense of belonging, family.

With the Auseklis symbol, there was a range of answers: morning star, roots, my heritage, hope, protection, new beginnings, order of the universe, connection to culture, consistency (referring to Latvia) were only some responses. For instance: “Latvia is one of the only things I know to be consistent in my life – though my relationship with Latvia may change and at points be difficult, I know it’ll always hold a place in my heart so I wanted to commemorate that. The meaning relating to light and stars was also important to me as a positive and vastness”.

Austras koks, however, was explained more elaborately and had more significance from a “heritage” and ”roots” perspective. The tree of life symbol; protects the family and gives strength and counsel; “the roots of the tree are associated with the underworld, the middle – the earth on which people, animals and other living things exist and the the crown of the tree is connected to the spiritual heaven.”.

Another respondent’s reply put it all in a neat nutshell: “A connection to past, present, and future and a reminder of the culture and language that my grandparents and parents worked hard to instil in me.” Through this tattoo, this tattoo wearer has extended the meaning of this symbol to conceptualise one’s relationship with their Latvian heritage, painstakingly instilled via the efforts of previous generations.

Many other Latvian symbols – both “raksti” and also other symbols were chosen as meaningful for respondents and worthy of becoming a permanent feature on their bodies. For instance – the zalktis, admitted one respondent, represents female ingenuity and wisdom, but for them it is a reminder of mental fortitude, especially when things get tough. There is also a deeper meaning attached to tattoos by some – that it is possible to feel a deeper spiritual connection with the deities they represent, in this case, zalktis is seen as an alternate form to the deity Māra.

Mēness zīme (Moon symbol), Laima, Laima’s slotiņa (Laima’s broom), Zvaigzne (star), Jumis, Ūsiņš, Pērkons (the god of Thunder), Māra, Māras līklocis (Māra’s zigzag), Akas zīme (well), Mārtiņa zīme, Dieva zīme (symbol of God), Krupīts (toad) are other Latvian deities or symbols that had deep significance to ancient Latvians and Latvian tattoo wearers today could also justify the reason for choosing each particular symbol, or combination of symbols.

Family bonds, ancestral connections

This response was an example of the deeper significance of the symbols at a personal level: “I have a large geometric and symmetrical patterned tattoo comprising of: Mēness zīme, Dieva zīme, zalktis, ozoliņš. While it does not contain the totality of the Latvian pantheon, it compliments my love for Latvian folklore very much. And in some capacity, albeit I’m not particularly spiritual, it nevertheless gives a feeling of being watched over and cared for by the Latvian pantheon in the same way our own parents care and watch over us.”. There is an interesting dichotomy here which could be worthy of further exploration – though there is a denial that the respondent is “particularly spiritual” they have, however, chosen to permanently etch these powerful symbols on their body for a sense of protection.

Another wearer described a combination of Latvian symbols tattooed on their leg: “[I have] the Lielvārde belt around my leg [which] consists of 5 symbols. An oak tree, the cross of Mara, Thunder and Zalktis. Each symbol has its own meaning, but these were chosen because they also represent a certain time of the year associated with the birth of relatives.”. Here, each seasonal symbol was chosen to represent the birth of a relative into one’s family – an interweaving of the personal (one’s family) with one’s ancient Latvian spiritual heritage.

Continuing the family thread, one respondent shared the reason for a matching choice of tattoos on one’s inner forearm: “I have the word māsa (sister) tattooed on my inner forearm. My sister has a matching tattoo to mine. My sister and I are both half Latvian (from our dad) and we are proud to be members of such a resilient and beautiful culture. We wanted a tattoo that would show our bond to each other and our culture.”. Again, bonds that transcend familial ties to a pride in a jointly experienced culture on their father’s side.

Another person’s view, however, was that their deceased relatives would be ambivalent about their decision: “There is a sense of connection. My grandparents would not have approved of a tattoo, but they would definitely endorse the connection I feel to a land so far away from where I live.”. Still, others are pragmatic about their connection and put things into perspective from a different angle: “I am no more connected than I already was. It’s just something that looks cool, has a cool story, and identifies me, just like a Namejs [ring] would. People are still iffy on the subject of tattoos, and I respect that. Who knows what my ancestors would think. They’d just be proud that I even speak the language and participate in events.”.

As a fair number of Latvians are named after ancient Latvian divinities (eg. Māra, Laima, Jānis, Dēkla, Jumis) a personal interweaving of one’s own name with divine involvement can also be found in some explanations:The broom of Laima [the goddess of fortune]… ‘Ej, Laimīte, tu pa priekšu…[es tavās pēdiņās]. (You go first, Laima; I will follow in your footsteps) is a reminder for me to listen to myself (my middle name is Laima, but it is also a reminder to connect with my ‘higher self’ and the divine, to follow in its footsteps)”.

According to another respondent who sought to explain their personal input into the tattoo design: “they’re all expressions of a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ [a quality that is difficult to explain] of being Latvian to me. That deep naturalistic, semi-pagan, semi-spiritual, deep roots, in a modern (like me) way. Also, I drew them all. So deeply meaningful.”. A sense of belonging to something bigger – the “Latvian tribe” – comes through in another quote: “…a very stylistic tribal band, left arm, saule/ auseklis/ pērkonkrusts/ laimas slota/ krusta krusts/ Dievs/ dārzs”. When asked what all these symbols mean to this wearer, they replied laconically: “Everything”.

Unique choice of symbols

Latvian symbols can also take the form of text from popular songs. The lyrics of popular group Prātā vētra had been the inspiration for one respondent: “Pēc negaisa vienmēr būs saule, pēc nakts vienmēr rīts.”…one of my favorite songs, … after every hardship there is beauty waiting on the other side.’. Others have been quite witty with their choice of tattoo, by choosing a Latvian saying: “Pūcei aste zied [The owl’s tail is blooming] – A saying that my family would say when something would never happen. ‘Tu dabūsi tetovējumu kad pūcei aste zied.’.[you will get a tattoo when the owl’s tail will be blooming]”

For some, having the word “latviete” (Latvian) tattooed on one’s body symbolises their nationality and roots or a Latvian flag inside a heart or something simpler – a “vainags” (Latvian flower crown traditionally worn in summer, especially on Midsummer Night) or even a simple “smilga” (bent grass) are enough to be the sign that encapsulates their Latvian identity. Other responses included: a daina (folksong verse) often mentioned by one’s grandmother, a Latvian plant, madara (flower: Lady’s bedstraw), oak leaves, ‘smilga’ (bent grass), the title of the folkdance group one is a member of, song lyrics, a Latvian postage stamp, the Riga skyline, a Latvian painting, “Jāņu zāles” (flowers plucked for Jāņi celebrations), Baltic storks, three stars (from the Freedom Monument). All of these examples are either Latvian symbols from nature or symbolise Latvia in some form and therefore have meaning to the wearer.

Spiritual meaning

When specifically asked if their tattoo gives them protection, strength, clarity etc., then most people replied in the negative (some admitted that’s because they are not spiritual themselves) yet some claimed that it did: I think that they do have personal spiritual meaning which is why I don’t like talking about them too much to others. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen direct “power” of my tattoos.”.

Another person indicated that the spiritual meaning is more symbolic than anything else: “It has a spiritual meaning in the sense that it is a symbol of my Latvian identity, which is an integral part of my personality. It gives me strength in the sense that it reminds me of the difficulties my family overcame to get to the USA and the strength and resilience of my family in starting new lives here. I remember it when I have difficulties myself and then they don’t seem nearly as serious as I first thought.”.

Motivation for getting tattoos

Respondents listed a number of reasons for getting their Latvian tattoos. The most frequent reply was symbolism (70%), followed by a desire for self-expression (66%) and Latvian group identity (59%). Other reasons were cultural or religious reasons, commemoration of a loved one, spiritual reasons, personal growth, emotional healing, aesthetics. So, there is a strong link between tattoos and the symbolism that they hold for the wearer – either as a personal statement to express their personal unique identity to the world or to visually confirm their sense of belonging to Latvia and their Latvian heritage.

One person reasoned that the tattoo would be a permanent reminder of one’s Latvian identity: “I have been thinking about a Latvia-related tattoo for several years. When I left school, I felt that maintaining my “Latvianness” would be much harder than before, and tattoos were one way of permanently linking myself to my identity and reminding myself of it”.

A heartfelt explanation included remembering surviving hardships in life: “I got my second Latvian tattoo a few years later, after a difficult time in my life. It is the text ‘lai sadega nelaimīte, kā uguns dzirkstelīte (let your misfortune burn, like embers in the fire)’. I really like that text and it moves me. It comes from a song that I often listened to in order to get through the difficulties of life.”.

Placement on body and visibility

By far the greatest number of respondents shared that their tattoo(s) is on a part of their arm (60%) – either on their arm, should, hand etc. This was followed by the back (upper, lower) (21%) and the leg (leg, foot, ankle etc.) (18%) and torso (18%).

How willing are wearers of Latvian tattoos to make them visible in their daily lives? 53% had tattoos which are visible when they wear short-sleeved pants/ shirts. Speaking of visibility, the size of the tattoos also matters. 51% of respondents have tattoos that are 3-8 cm in diameter while a further 42% have tattoos that are bigger – 8cm or larger. 22% have small tattoos – 1-3 cm in diameter. Some outlier answers were full arm sleeve tattoos or full back, hips, ribs.

If the tattoo is easily visible, then the wearer is usually prompted by others to talk about Latvia and their ancestry and the meaning of the symbol. One respondent shared: The questions depend on who is asking – from another Latvian it is a point of identification and usually an induction into the [local] sabiedrība (community) if they’re unaware [of one]; from Australians it’s the start of a rabbit hole as they slowly learn about a country they’ve usually never heard of and how culturally rich it is. I’ve had many friends actually start coming to Latvian events to experience it first-hand.”.

Some people don’t really want to discuss their tattoos with others and consider them private: “The first question I get is, ‘what do these symbols mean?’ I honestly don’t like talking about my tattoos. Or explaining the pagan meaning since I know people won’t understand it and I like to keep private about things that are somewhat spiritual to me.”.

Research before getting tattoo(s)

Most respondents had searched for the tattoo design online (65%) and almost half had skimmed through books, magazines etc. (46%). Almost a third had spoken to others (29%) and one fifth had looked at other people’s tattoos (20%) for inspiration. Some consulted their relatives (parents, grandparents), others – botanical drawings for design accuracy. The reason for the research was to fully understand the meaning of the design (65%), to make a choice on which design suits best (54%), looks best (40%), or for accuracy (51%).

Response of family and friends

Bearing in mind that the age group of respondents is quite varied, it was interesting learn about the response of friends and family to the tattoo(s). 89% of respondents stated that friends were either very positive or positive in their response. Yet, when it came to family members, while 74% were either very positive or positive in their response, 16% of family members were indifferent and 9% indicated that the response of each family member was different.

Feeling after getting tattoo

Asked if they felt different after getting their tattoo, just over half (55%) agreed, while 45% did not feel any different. Those who did felt a sense of pride, more at home in their identity regarding their heritage, while for others there was a sense of belonging, being part of a particular tribe, connection to their heritage, identity, roots. Other answers included feeling more: confident, real, empowered, whole, beautiful, more of themselves, or even cleansed – and for others it made their identity visible and also provided a conversation starter: “Mainly it acts as a striking visual cue of my heritage, and prompts questions from the non-Latvians around me (which is the vast majority of people)”.

For others, each tattoo signified a particular moment in their lives:”[I felt] emotionally different based on the point in life I was each time”. For one respondent, the tattoo triggers a sense of strength: “I got it when I was feeling depressed and now that it’s written on my body, I think about it often when I need to feel stronger”. For some, there was a sense of growth: “I would say I am very much not known for risk-taking or being showy but just the act of getting my first tattoo felt like a subtle show of maturing and independence”.

Final thoughts

So what is the take home message, having learnt more about Latvians living abroad and their tattoos? I guess my greatest surprise was learning that not only do the Millenials and younger generations get tattoos – there is a growing number of Gen Xers and some Baby Boomers who are getting around to fulfilling a silent dream they may have had for many years.

The other unexpected finding was that many Latvians who get tattoos have done much research on the signs and symbols they planned to get tattooed on their body. Their answers showed a genuine passion for and a sense of connection with their heritage and their insight into the symbols – the visual representation of this connection – was not taken lightly. Responses showed that this deep sense of belonging had led these people on a journey of discovery, of learning about Latvian symbolism, digesting the meaning of these ancient symbols which was then processed by each person individually before it become a permanent manifestation on the wearer’s body.

There seemed to be few regrets by my respondents (only if the tattoo was badly done) and the permanence and placement of each tattoo seemed to generally instil in each wearer a feeling that they could be a better version of themselves, and that the tattoo(s) were a symbol of the permanency of sense of connection to their personal and collective ancestors, Latvian heritage and roots.

Thanks to all who responded to this survey! Watch this space for news on a coming photo exhibition of diaspora Latvians and their tattoos – both virtual and face-to-face (in Latvia)!

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.

The vocative case: Arnis! or Arni!

Ever since living in Latvia I was puzzled about why the vocative was constantly being misused. No wonder, as many of the Latvian grammar texts only briefly touch on the topic and it rarely appears in the declension tables. It seems that even in daily emails and other digital communications the vocative case is either avoided altogether or just plain wrong. But that is about to change!

In the Latvian language the vocative case is used to address a person or object: Mārtiņ! māt! skolotāj! Ieva! It is usually formed from the nominative case minus the last letter and there are declension groups where it is identical to the nominative. Its origins come from the Sanskrit language, but many modern Indo-European languages have lost the vocative case entirely. It is still very relevant for the Baltic and also most Slavic languages.

An interesting survey was conducted several years ago from various regions in Latvia which revealed that the nominative form was used for the vocative, especially amongst the male population. Is this the influence of the Russian language which has rid itself of the vocative case? Would a survey addressing the émigré Latvians in other parts of the world show different results?

The screenshots that appear in the top of this article were collected over the last six months. Recently I nearly fell off my chair when I received an email from a major telco (telecommunications company) and staring at me was Sveiks, Arni!, but this is extremely rare. Others skirt around the issue by using a general address form such as, E-pakalpojumu lietotāj! God. LMT klient! Sveiki! or even changing the case and inserting the recipient’s name in quotes. Marketing and Communication specialists will tell you that a personalised address is much more effective.

So why the interest in the vocative? Many years ago, while studying Latvian grammar in school, rather than follow the cue of my classmates and gaze into the air, I was inspired to put my basic programming skills to the test and create a prototype to decline nouns and further digitalise the Latvian language. Deklinators was born and made available for Windows and Macintosh computer users. The same, but much improved algorithm was used years later in the Latvian Nouns app for iPhones, iPads and Android smartphones. 

About a year ago, together with professional developer Pāvils Jurjāns we embarked on an open-source project to release the Deklinators algorithm to the general developer community. Several days ago, on the 18th of November we released the first version:    

For developers: GitHub

For users: Demo website

Now there should be no reason not to use the Latvian vocative case correctly.

Diasporas skolas kombinē klātienes mācības ar attālinātajām, lai skolu padarītu pieejamu attālāko reģionu bērniem

Par Latvijas valsts atbalstu diasporai un remigrējušām ģimenēm — LU FSI pētnieces Dainas Grosa intervijā ar Latviešu valodas aģentūras direktora vietnieci Daci Dalbiņu un LVA metodiķēm Aiju Otomeri un Lieni Valdmani. Publicējam intervijas otro daļu.

Daina Grosa: 49% vecāku aptaujā min iespējamu atgriešanos Latvijā kā iemeslu, kāpēc viņiem šķiet svarīgi, lai bērns zinātu latviešu valodu. Kā, atrodoties ārpus Latvijas, var sagatavot bērnus, lai iespējamās atgriešanās gadījumā viņiem latviešu valoda nesagādātu grūtības? Ko darīt, lai viņi justos, ka varēs tikt līdzi skolā?

LVA: Latviešu valodas uzturēšana ģimenē, protams, ir būtiskākais. Šim mērķim jāizmanto visi iespējamie interneta resursi valodas apguvei, piemēram, www.maciunmacies.lv, YouTube, www.bernistaba.lv utt.

Protams, laikus arī vajadzētu sākt tam gatavoties. Ne pēdējā brīdī, bet kādu gadu iepriekš un ņemt arī privātskolotājus. Mums ir Classflow privātskolotāju kontaktu loks, ko Eiropas Latviešu apvienība ielikusi savā lapā, plus vēl mēs arī Classflow nodarbībās uzņemam bērnus. Mums 2021. gadā būs Classflow kursi remigrantu bērniem.

Mums ir divu veidu auditorijas. Par atbalsta sniegšanu — mēs runājam par pirms- un pēc- remigrācijas posmiem. Eiropas Latviešu apvienība vēlējās, lai būtu pirms-remigrācijas grupas, kurām varētu palīdzēt sagatavoties — lai latviešu valoda nesagādātu grūtības. Tiek veidoti bukleti — ceļveži skolotājiem un vecākiem, kur ir ekspertu viedokļi par to, kā vajag gatavoties. Tā ir saziņa ar VARAM remigrantu koordinatoriem. Tur, kur ir labi koordinatori, tur ir ļoti laba sadarbība. Ir arī Facebook interešu grupas, kur vecāki, kuri ir šo ceļu jau paveikuši, dalās pieredzē, problēmās. Ja ir iespējams, saziņa ar potenciālo skolu/iespējamo klases audzinātāju.

Vai jums sanāk cieši sadarboties ar remigrācijas koordinatoriem? Vai viņi jums zvana un nāk ar priekšlikumiem vai vienkārši ar problēmām, kas būtu jārisina bērniem, kas plāno atgriezties?

Jā, mums ir aktīva sadarbība ar remigrācijas koordinatoriem. Konsultējam viņus, piedalāmies dažādos sabiedrību informējošos pasākumos, sniedzam arī individuālas konsultācijas vecākiem. Informējam arī Latvijas skolu administrācijas un skolu kolektīvus. Šogad, tāpat kā iepriekšējos gados, pedagogiem, kas strādā ar remigrējušajiem bērniem, būs profesionālās pilnveides kursi, meistarklases un pieredzes apmaiņas pasākumi.

Latvijas TV kanālu, filmu, multfilmu pieejamība ārvalstīs ir mūžsena problēma, un tā vēl nav pilnībā atrisināta. Vai aģentūra kādā veidā var palīdzēt ģimenēm diasporā piekļūt pie bērniem piemērotu filmu satura?

Šis jautājums ir diasporas organizāciju aktualizēts un līdz šim ticis risināts dažādu akciju veidā — Nacionālā Kino centra vietnē Filmas.lv noteiktos laika periodos arī diasporai ir pieejama gan Latvijas filmu klasika, gan jaunākās filmas. Ir filmas, kas pieejamas visu laiku. Rudenī šajā vietnē arī diasporai skatīšanai bija pieejamas Lielā Kristapa kino konkursa programmas filmas, to skaitā arī animācijas filmas. Nesen uzzinājām, ka šogad Latvijas Sabiedriskie mediji ir raduši risinājumu Latvijas teritorijā izplatītā autorsatura skatīšanai arī diasporā REplay.lv vietnē, autorizējoties ar e-parakstu vai Smart-ID.

Kādā veidā vecāki, kā arī skolotāji diasporā var uzzināt par visu internetā pieejamo, nevis tikai par to, kas ievietots vietnē Māci un mācies? Vai ir kur vienuviet apvienotas saites uz Uzdevumi.lv, Soma.lv un daudz ko citu?

Šobrīd šādas informācijas vietnē Māci un mācies nav, taču tas ir mūsu darāmo darbu sarakstā. Piemēram, ļoti daudz vērtīgu materiālu ir atrodami Austrālijas latviešu mājaslapā, kā arī Amerikas Latviešu apvienības mājaslapā. Papildināsim mūsu Māci un mācies ar diasporas auditorijai noderīgu vietņu aprakstiem un saitēm.

Tas būtu labi, lai vecākiem nebūtu jāizgudro ritenis no jauna. Ja diasporā dibina jaunu skoliņu, tad vadība zinātu, kur meklēt mācību vielu. Tālāk par skoliņām. Tagad, pēc vairāku gadu ilgās ciešās sadarbības ar diasporas skolām, ko jūs kā aģentūra secināt, ko reāli skoliņas var panākt, un kādam ir jābūt skolu mērķim?

LVA: Kopīgais diasporas skolu mērķis, protams, ir latviešu valodas apguve. Un latviskās vides nodrošināšana latviešu valodes apguvei darbībā. Tas arī palīdz uzturēt latviskumu un līdzdalību Latvijas kultūras dzīvē, kaut vai virtuālā veidā. Tomēr ceļš uz šo mērķi katrai skolai ir savs. Skola vadās no tā, kādi ir apstākļi, kāda ir kopiena, cik aktīvi ir vecāki, kādi ir pedagogi. Diasporas izglītības vadlīnijas ar sasniedzamajiem rezultātiem jau ir, taču pašas skolas ziņā ir, kā tā šos rezultātus panāk. Mēs no savas puses diasporas skolu attīstību un kopējo mērķu sasniegšanu varam veicināt ar skolu līdzfinansējumu. Ar izvirzītajiem kritērijiem finansējuma saņemšanai varam rosināt skolas izvirzīt sev lielākus mērķus, tādā veidā sekmējot latviskās izglītības kvalitāti diasporā.

Tālāk par jaunām diasporas skoliņām. Pāris aktīvistu, kas nesen uzsākuši jaunas skoliņas, aptaujā izteica nesapratni par to, kā pirmajā darbības gadā saņemt atbalstu, jo par tādu atbalstu vispār neko nezināja. Kā lai diasporas kopienas aktīvisti, kuri grasās uzsākt jaunas skoliņas darbību, vispār par jums uzzina, un kā pieteikties uz atbalstu?

Jau kopš pagājušā gada esam paredzējuši finansiālu atbalstu arī jaunajām skolām, kas neatbilst visiem konkursu kritērijiem. Tā, piemēram, Eiropas jaunās skolas, kas vēl nav gadu darbojušās, 2020. gadā varēja saņemt 500 eiro lielu atbalstu darbības uzsākšanai. Papildus tās var saņemt arī apjomīgu mācību un metodisko materiālu dāvinājumu, jaunāko literatūru, ko nosūtām pa pastu. Parasti jauno skolu vadītāji vēršas vēstniecībā, un tad vēstniecība tās nosūta tālāk pie mums pēc atbalsta. Reizēm par mums ir pastāstījuši citu diasporas skolu vadītāji, reizēm par iespējamo atbalstu uzzina diasporas medijos vai interneta meklētājā ierakstot attiecīgos atslēgvārdus.

Diasporas skolotāju semināri notiek jau 12 gadus. Pa šiem gadiem viena skolotāju paaudze ir jau beigusi savas mācību gaitas (darbojoties aktīvi, kamēr viņu pašu bērni iet skolā) un pie grožiem skoliņās nākusi jauna maiņa. Vai jūs pa šiem gadiem redzat izaugsmi skolotāju attieksmē, darbībā?

Trimdas laikā dibinātajām diasporas skolām ir spēcīgas tradīcijas, skolotāju nomaiņa notiek organiskāk, vērtības, metodes un tradīcijas nododot jaunajiem skolotājiem. Eiropas jaunajām skolām vērojama lielāka skolotāju mainība, taču šajās skolās ir vairāk profesionālu latviešu valodas skolotāju, kam ir spēcīgāka latviešu valodas zināšanu bāze, salīdzinot, piemēram, ar ASV, Austrālijas vai Kanādas skolām, kurās profesionālie pedagogi var arī nebūt ar labām latviešu valodas zināšanām.

Diasporas skolotāju klātienes kursi ir neaizstājami ne nododamās informācijas ziņā, tā ir pieredzes apmaiņas vieta, savstarpējo kontaktu veidošanas vide. Klātienes kursus aizstājot ar attālinātiem pasākumiem 2020. gadā, šobrīd varam secināt, ka arī pēc pandēmijas turpināmi reģionālie pieredzes apmaiņas vebināri, kas ļauj skolotājiem pašiem aktīvāk iesaistīties un dalīties pieredzē, kas klātienes seminārā dalībnieku skaita un laika ierobežotības dēļ ne vienmēr ir iespējams. Nākotnē redzam klātienes un attālināto pasākumu kombinēšanas potenciālu.

Tālāk mēs varētu parunāt par remigrējušo ģimeņu nometnēm un arī bērnu vasaras nometnēm. Kādas ir bijušas atsauksmes par tām?

Par mūsu remigrantu nometnēm ir bijušas ļoti labas atsauksmes, dalībnieki ir ļoti apmierināti gan par attieksmi, gan gūto informāciju. Veidojas domubiedru grupa – vecāki, kuri ir piedalījušies šajās nometnēs, ir gatavi sniegt palīdzību un atbalstu jauno remigrantu vecākiem. Runājot par diasporas bērnu vasaras nometnēm, šobrīd tas vairs nav mūsu finansējuma plānā, tās organizē SIF.

Līdz pandēmijai katru vasaru organizējām Classflow tālmācības skolēnu salidojumu vasarā Latvijā, cerams, drīzumā tas atkal varēs notikt klātienē. Šajā salidojumā, kas ir trīs dienu nometne, katru gadu piedalās ap 70 bērnu. Tas ir kā skolas pasākums, kurā mūsu tālmācības skolēni satiek savus skolotājus un grupas biedrus, piedalās kopējās nodarbībās. Vienlaikus vecākiem tiek organizētas izglītojošas lekcijas.

Par tālmācības kursiem. Aptaujā ļoti daudzi vecāki teica, ka viņi grib pieteikt savus bērnus tālmācības kursos, bet nav vietas. Kā var viņiem palīdzēt?

Mums ir 200 skolēnu vietas, un bez papildu finansējuma šo vietu skaitu nav iespējams palielināt. Gada laikā atbrīvojas tikai dažas vietas, tad dodam iespēju tiem bērniem, kas ir iepriekš jau pieteikušies. Mums veidojas gaidītāju rinda, kurā var pieteikties, elektroniski aizpildot informāciju mūsu mājaslapā Valoda.lv. Pagājušajā gadā, pārplānojot klātienes pasākumu finansējumu, organizējām papildu tālmācības grupas pusaudžiem.

Bet man liekas, ka vairāk satraucas tieši mazo bērnu vecāki, kuri grib, bet vietu trūkuma dēļ nevar pieteikt bērnus tālmācības kursos.

Taču, kā jau iepriekš minējām, mums ir Classflow kursus apguvušo diasporas skolotāju saraksts, kuru kontakti ir pieejami. Vecāki var izvēlēties privātskolotāju un tālāk jau sadarboties individuāli.

Bet nu pētnieki aktualizējuši to, ka tālmācības kursiem ir nepietiekams atbalsts, jo tajos nevar piedāvāt vietu visiem gribētājiem.

Ja mēs kaut 200 bērnus atbalstām un palīdzam viņiem labi apgūt latviešu valodu, tas arī tomēr ir daudz. Nodrošinām nodarbības nelielās grupās profesionāla pedagoga vadībā divreiz nedēļā. Protams, samazinot nodarbību skaitu līdz vienai reizei nedēļā, varētu apmācīt divreiz vairāk skolēnu, taču tas tomēr ir mācību kvalitātes jautājums, ko nedrīkst risināt matemātiski. Nopietnus mācību rezultātus varam nodrošināt tikai ar nodarbībām divas reizes nedēļā.

Par pandēmiju un to, kādas korekcijas tā ir ieviesusi skolās šobrīd. Vai, jūsuprāt, pandēmijas iespaidā radusies jaunā attālinātā mācīšana būs izveidojusi skolām, ja ne pilnībā, tad varbūt daļēji jaunu modeli? Vai tas ir vēlams?

Pēdējā gada laikā diasporas skolotāji ir ļoti intensīvi mācījušies un apguvuši jaunas iemaņas, strauji pielāgojoties attālināto mācību formātam. Mūsu Classflow kursos pagājušā gada laikā vien esam apmācījuši 40 diasporas skolotājus, un šogad darbs turpināsies. Skolotāji ir mācījušies, arī sadarbojoties savā starpā un papildinot zināšanas individuāli, apgūstot dažādus digitālos rīkus attālināto mācību nodrošināšanai.

Veidojas plašs diasporas skolotāju loks, kas būs apguvuši dažādus digitālos rīkus un mācību platformas un varēs tos prasmīgi izmantot arī pēc pandēmijas. Klātienes nodarbības ir neaizstājamas, to nozīmi uzsver paši diasporas skolotāji, un, tikko būs iespējams, tās atsāksies. Būs skolas, kas klātienes mācības turpinās kombinēt ar attālinātajām mācībām, lai skolu padarītu pieejamu attālāko reģionu bērniem. Tiem, kuriem līdz šim nebija iespējams skolu apmeklēt. Prognozējam, ka palielināsies skolas pieejamība un atvērtība, taču ne atsakoties no klātienes mācībām. Mēs visi būsim kļuvuši gudrāki un spēsim izmantot daudz lielāku instrumentu kopu.

Vai ir risks, ka pandēmijas dēļ arī skola izbeidz darbību, jo aptaujā skolotāji teica – jā, mēs izgājām šos Classflow kursus, tomēr attālinātās mācības skolā neizmantojam.

Ir skolas, kas pandēmijas laikā uz laiku apturēja darbību, jo tas ir vienkāršāk. Ja šī situācija ieilgs, domājam, daļa no tām arī uzsāks attālinātās mācības. Sākotnēji neviens nerēķinājās ar pandēmijas ilgumu… Ir dažas skolas, kas ir beigušas darboties, taču tā ir noticis arī iepriekšējos gados, kad pandēmiju nevarējām vainot. Katru gadu Eiropā ir skolas, kas beidz pastāvēt, un ir kāda, kas rodas no jauna. Bet mēs rūpējamies par nepieciešamo atbalstu un tā pielāgošanu dažādajām skolu un to skolotāju vajadzībām.

Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a migration researcher at the University of Latvia, PhD from the University of Sussex, formerly a member of the board of the World Federation of Free Latvians, author and translator/ editor/ proofreader from Latvian into English of an eclectic mix of publications of different genres.