Last night I went to a concert organised by the Latvian Embassy to the United Kingdom, in celebration of Latvia’s 100th anniversary as a nation. Six Latvian musicians played pieces by Vītols, Rachmaninov, Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Vasks; one Russian, two Germans, and two Latvians.
In the interval speech, the representative from the Embassy, dressed in traditional folk dress and flower garland, thanked the performers, the audience, and the friends of the Embassy. With a collective ‘you’ she addressed and thanked the collective us who helped the independent Latvia be born one hundred years ago. She thanked us for the diplomatic and military aid that brought her country into being.
My cousin, who was with me and, like me, is of a Swedish mother, Latvian father and British home, pointed out that no one present would actually have been there personally in 1918. But the representative was addressing nations and generations. The ancestors of the people in the hall helped create an independent Latvia in the aftermath of World War One. The UK diplomatically recognised the new state, and sent military reinforcements to protect and stabilise it. Mine and my cousin’s mothers welcomed the second generation of Latvian refugees into their lives and their wombs, to create us who then built our lives in the UK.
We have inherited our parents’ and grandparents’ and governments’ decisions; their honour and their mistakes. We were there to accept the gratitude and responsibility that was their due.
And addressing the past, she also addressed the future, who will inherit our decisions and actions. She called for continued cooperation, without mentioning international military organisations, an eastern threat, a European community, or vulnerable nature.
But the message was clear: the future will judge us. And never were it more poignant then that night, when the flags that framed the stage spoke of a relationship that, just a few kilometres south of the hall, today’s generation of leaders were working to end. End at the insistence of the previous generation, and at the expense of the next.
If you’re in the UK, you can listen to the BBC Radio 3 broadcast recording of the concert here, until 14 December 2018.