School may be spark for Latvians in Ireland

Here’s a doctoral dissertation waiting to be written. Thousands of Latvians—perhaps 20,000 and growing—are now living and working in Ireland. Despite the astonishing number, Ireland has no latviešu biedrība, no Latvian society, and seemingly little structure to social and cultural life. But that could be about to change.

Ireland’s first Latvian school opened May 29 in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ireland in the capital city of Dublin. The school, which initially will meet once a month, could spark greater interest in forming a Latvian society.

Irish government statistics say about 2,300 Latvians live and work in the country. Ivars Lasis, the first secretary in the Embassy of Latvia in Dublin, puts the number at almost 10 times as many, and says more are coming every day.

“In principle, all of Ireland is scattered with Latvians,” Lasis said. Many are in Dublin, but they also are found in the southern city of Cork, in the northern city of Donegal and throughout the countryside.

Before Latvia regained independence, Ireland never had a strong Latvian community. It was not a favored destination for the Displaced Persons after World War II. Even the veclatvieši, the Old Latvians who for economic and political reasons left their homeland in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, avoided the Emerald Isle. Vilberts Krasnais, who in his 1938 book Latviešu kolōnijas catalogued Latvian communities the world over, didn’t even mention Ireland.

About 10 pupils, ranging in age from 2 to 12, were expected to show for the first day of school, teacher Ramona Āboliņa said by telephone from Dublin. She and the other teacher, Jolanta Šmite, both have pedagogical training. The mother of a 6-year-old girl, Āboliņa moved to Ireland three years ago to be with her husband. She said she has 12 years of experience working in a Latvian preschool.

The first day of school probably will last about two hours, Āboliņa said. How the curriculum will unfold will be determined by the needs of the pupils and the wishes of the parents. But clearly a main focus will be preservation of Latvian language and traditions, she said.

“Everything here is foreign to them,” Āboliņa said.

Whereas new immigrants to countries such as the United States and Canada often find Latvian community life to be quite advanced, those in Ireland are starting from scratch. The school is the initiative of the embassy, Lasis said. It’s the second attempt to organize the social and cultural life of the thousands of ethnic Latvians in Ireland: The first Lutheran church service for Latvians was conducted in December in Dublin.

“We have this idea that there ought to be a (Latvian) society,” Lasis said. “The school is the first step.”

The school is scheduled to meet next on June 26. Anyone interested in the school should contact the embassy by telephone at +353 1 662 16 10 or by e-mail at

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

9 thoughts on “School may be spark for Latvians in Ireland

  1. I am Irish and after getting to know a number of people from Latvia who are working in Ireland I realise how alike we are as people. Our history and even our sense of humour. If more people from Latvia come to Ireland in the future it will be good for for Ireland and the Irish people.

  2. My daughters are half Irish, half Latvian. We chanced to visit your beautiful isle earlier this year, and had a most lovely time. I am glad of the good relationships between the two peoples. Both are most special.

  3. As a foreigner in Ireland, I can tell you that Latvians and Lithuanians are getting a bad reputation in Ireland, due to type of work and also some criminal actions (by a minority). Interfering with their traditions by bringing in Lutheran services into a strong Catholic country will also not be too popular among some natives. Also they are trying to preserve their own native Irish language so Latvians will also have to be aware of that. I am trying to learn it. When in Rome do as the Romans do! Respect the local traditions. Best to keep the Latvian traditions in Latvia.

  4. hi im Monica, and ik writting you from La Coruña, im looking for Juris and Sanita, theya are from Riga, we were working together 2 years or three ago in a irish Macdonalds, and i lost your address, the problemem, its that im just know yours names, and i have photos, i hope somebody can help me

    THATS MY MAIL pestru_69@msn,com
    sorry for my english

  5. Hi,

    I was interested to note that there was no Latvian Society in Ireland. I visited Riga last April and absolutely loved the city and the people. I think it is important that the Irish be more welcoming to newcomers from the accession countries -especially as we are a migrant people ouselves but I find it very difficult to meet people from these countries. Does anyone have any suggestions?

  6. its important for the newcomers to get organized themselves,also the irish police need to weed out the troubble makers that are giving the rest of them a bad name.If you have commited a crime in your country of origin you should not be allowed into any other member state

  7. Apart form the Latvian School in Dublin 2. Any Latvian school in the Meath or North County Dublin. Or North city. Please if anyone can help me.

  8. As a mexican married to a lativan planning to have babies in this country, I thing the idea of having a latvian school is fantastic. Altough I have to agree with Ratima Bodega. I want my children to know latvian language, traditions and history, but Ireland is their mother land now. Such education should be available as well to spouses of Latvian citizens. I think latvian embassy should be sending such kind of information to all registered latvians. Liels Paldies.

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