Kristaps Kaktiņš, vēsturnieks, muzeja speciālists
On the road from Riga to Liepaja we, several times, met crossroads with directions indicating Jelgava, and I recalled that sometimes Nikolajs would say this word “Jelgeuveu” with some emphasis. And each time we met that direction “Jelgava” I felt there was something there for our family. But we didn’t have time enough to go further at that moment. We were here for an adoption and there was much to do else.
Biedrības Zaļā vārna saiets Jelgavā 20. gs. 20. gadu beigas. Rolands Kurts nr. 6.When we came back to France I received a letter from Riga’s archives and it was a great emotion for all Kurts. Nikolajs was born in Moscow in 1920 He had been adopted by a Latvian citizen -Rolands Kurts- in Peterpils and taken to Jelgava in 1922, with a sister –Marija- and a Russian mother named Olga (and not Zinaïda such as Nikolajs said before). Rolands Kurts was born in 1888 at a farm named Rimzuni, Rundales pag. Bauska district. In 1924 Rolands declared to the tax office he had on charge his mother Emilija who also was living in Jelgava. He also declared Zinaïda and Wladimir Sitnik, as being step daughter and step son, students in Russia. Olga died in 1925 (it was the second mother Nikolajs was loosing, he was 5 years old). I didn’t find out when Marija died (in the Lielupe ?) It could be that this information lies in a newspaper of that time. Liouba died in 1942, during german occupation and deportation of Nikolajs by the Germans towards France. These formidable informations led me to come back in June 2012 to Riga so as to obtain the details and copies of the documents from the national archives.
Before I came I sent a letter to Rundales dome, I wanted to know if there still were some Kurts in the region or, at least, in the cemetery. The letter didn’t get at the right place but to Rundales castle where a lady received it and sent me a message soon after: “dear sir, we received your message at the castle. We apologize we have opened it and we send it right now to the dome. But I have to tell you this letter caught my eye because I’m going to marry soon a man whose parents are the present owner of your grand father’s house. Come when you wish and we’ll take you there…”
S. Kurts apciemojot savas dzimtas māju drupas Bauskas novadā
It was the beginning of a series of emotional encounters in Riga, Jelgava, Rundale.
I went to Rundale and Rimzuni with my new friends who, fortunately, and so as many Latvians, speak English as I do. I walked on my grand father’s farm ruins and visited different spots around where lived the Kurts on several generations. The family was registered on the Mežotnes parish archives since 1831. I didn’t find anything in Jelgava’s archives –where I was well received too- about other living or dead Kurts, most archives of that period having disappeared during the war and under the socialist rule.
In Riga I obtained lots of documents showing that my grand father Rolands was teacher, “inspektor” at the Petrina in the years of independence. I went to the now “Gederts Elias Jelgava” museum and was so well received by the team of historians that I obtained a picture of Rolands Kurts –I had never seen his face before- and many informations taken out of a book “Hercoga Petera gimnazija”. “Redaktors Arturs Veisbergs. Vasteras 1974”. I clearly noticed at the entrance of the Petrina this marble panel with the names of the deported students of Nov.1940 –Nikolajs was 20 years old at that time- and I made a picture of it. I wanted to check if my father and grand father had had to deal with these young people.
When I came back to France I had more questions than before, and the most important was:
why, after the war, Nikolajs never tried to know what his family had become and why he didn’t try to let know he had survived to the war and was living in France where he was building a family?
I decided to come again last July and I visited all those who had helped me in this search. Meanwhile I received other informations about my grand father who had had some trouble with justice about financial misuse in 1936. The front page of Zemgales Balss 19 junijs 1936 is: “Rolands Kurts apcietinats”. I wonder what were Nikolajs’ feelings when he went back to school the day after. Some while later I discovered that Rolands was a communist propagander -“Brivais Zemnieks” Nov. 1940 and “Jaunais Komunars” January 1941, Latvijas kareivis… I also discovered that my father Nikolajs was involved in the Komsomols. This was a surprise for me because in his life with us Nikolajs showed full resolution against the communists. I immediately wondered what position had Rolands and Nikolajs towards the deported young people of the Petrina.
Fizikas eksāmens Hercoga Pētera Ģimnāzijā 1924. g. R. Kurts sēž kreisā pusē.
Later on I discovered a picture of end 1940 that showed Nikolajs with the basket team of the HPG and some sports articles saying how many points he won with his partners: Cirulis, Gulbis, Kugrens, Silins… The picture can be seen now at the Petrina within the exposition on the occupation times.
It was time now to understand what did Rolands and Nikolajs do when the Nazis got into Latvia. It’s difficult to obtain data on that period and I will have to deal with the russian archives now. The Riga archives propose the hypothesis that Rolands fled to Russia while Nikolajs went into the direction of the Germans. Nikolajs said once that he had deserted from the Red Army because of its criminal actions. The German archives cannot explain how he arrived in France round 1942, working as a forced worker at Cherbourg on the Atlantic wall building, with another Latvian named Leonids (?) and many russian prisoners. But there he was at the end of the war.
My idea about Nikolajs silence duiring all these years, is that he was ashamed of what had happened to his class mates of the Petrina and also of his partition from his communist father.
The biggest surprise for me was when I got the information that Rolands came back to Jelgava after the war, and this, our father Nikolajs never knew. Rolands worked again in Jelgava and still acted as a communist propagander. He also created and directed a special school for workers at the commerce institute of Jelgava. Nikolajs also never has been aware that Rolands was arrested at the end of 1945 for financial misuse (again) in the management of an orphanage. It looks as if he was still taking care of his adopted son. Rolands was condemned to jail together with a man, Vilis K….. for one year and a half.
Rolands disappeared at the end of 1946 while he was asking an audience for an appeal of his sentence at the Suprem Court of Riga.
Some people still living close to Jelgava will discover with this letter what Nikolajs has become. Some may have some remembrances of Rolands and Nikolajs (such as the basketters or students). Some others would be interested to know or to say what these “disappeared people” have become. Some could say who was Nikolajs’ mother after the death of Olga, when he was 5 years old. And many would find great interest in visiting the expo at the Petrina so as to remind these tough times of occupations and war.
Māja Jelgavas centrā, kur 20. gs. 20. un 30. gados dzīvoja Kurtu ģimeneOur mother -and so do we sons and daughter- are already grateful to those who support the living memory of history, for our family and the sake of all disappeared people of these painful times. Serge Kurts