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Celebrating Ilga!

A new computer, a new lease on life and a lot of gratitude. I have been in the habit posting on Sundays, and will continue to do that. I know, today is Monday!

They Roared is finally live. It is available on Amazon and will be around locally and at Maria's by the end of the month. It really feels wonderful. We are planning an official release sometime in the nearish future, but for now, we are just celebrating a soft release. For that release I want to share a bit about the beautiful woman to whom the book is dedicated. She is ever an inspiration.

Since the day I met Ilga Vise, many years ago, I knew she was a very special woman, even though I did not know her story then. She now resides in the little town of Mancos, Colorado, with her daughter Silvia, and her family. Ilga volunteers with the Friends of the Library and is an active community member. I am honored to call her a friend. Her strength, beauty, resilience, and kind heart are remarkable. Ilga has a sparkle about her. She always has a ready smile and is lit with a light that shines from within. Ilga seems to embody joy.

Ilga and her family fled Latvia in 1944 when the Russians occupied their country and Russian soldiers did a dragnet through the forest. The Russians deported 35,000 people to Siberia. Latvians were happy to greet the Germans because the year under Russian rule had been so brutal. Young Latvian men enlisted in the German Army to fight the Russians. After three years of German occupation, the Russians were making a comeback. Ilga’s father obtained permission for the family to ride on a German Army truck carrying wood chips. As the Russian forces advanced westward, the hope they could remain in Latvia faded. They needed to leave their homeland. Ilga’s father secured space on board a ship bound for Germany, which carried the German Army equipment. But in the very eastern part of Germany, the family was forcibly removed from the ship, although they had papers guaranteeing passage to the western part of Germany. They were put on a train that took them to a forced labor camp where many Eastern Europeans and Jews were already enslaved.

Ilga remembers being sick one day while the others at the camp mixed cement to be used for Nazi barriers. She was standing at the window of the barracks, her fevered forehead resting on the cold pane, horrified by the scene unfolding before her. The guards were brutalizing a young girl right under her window. Those 10-year-old eyes saw much more inhumanity, I am sure.

On a day in January 1945, the German guards abandoned their posts at the forced labor camp and disappeared. That was the day, in a heavy snowstorm, that Ilga’s father led his family on a two-month, 500-mile walk to freedom. They spent some time in a refugee camp in Germany before finally making their way to the United States.


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