Inveiss Family

Anna, Rob, Maija and Janis Inveiss in full Latvian costumes

As I’ve watched the news footage coming from Ukraine the past two weeks, I’ve been taken back in time, bombarded by memories that aren’t actually mine. I watch videos of the bombs falling from the sky and I can almost visualize what my Opaps (dad’s dad) went through 80 years ago. Just a teenager then, he found himself hiding and struggling to breathe in a smoke-filled basement in Germany after having escaped from his homeland of Latvia in search of safety. I always thought I understood all of the other family and cultural stories of intergenerational trauma I grew up hearing, but everything has been brought to a new light in this modern context.

I’m a proud Latvian American, a dual citizen and fluent in Latvian. Three of my grandparents escaped Latvia during the Soviet Union’s occupation and made a home in the United States as part of the Latvian Diaspora. My heritage is ingrained in every piece of who I am, from the spelling of my name to the ring I wear every day to the way I communicate with my family. That connection to my culture is why I feel so much empathy for those in Ukraine. My Baltic homeland and Ukraine have a shared history — two countries that have been occupied by different regimes and not allowed to openly rejoice in their traditions. This all feels like a story that I’ve heard before, because I have.

maija inveiss young

Maija Inveiss as a young girl in a folk costume (Courtesy of Maija Inveiss)