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No special compensation for children of dead heroes of Latvia's 'barricades'

  • 2000-01-27
  • By Antra Linarte
Each January people who took part in barricading Latvia's parliament and state buildings and families who lost their loved ones in 1991 are brought out as a heroic symbols, but the next day they forgotten until next January, say their supporters.

"Yes, on these barricade memory days, children who lost their fathers hear that they were heroes, but maybe they soon will start to doubt it," said Anita Mellupe, head of the publishing company Liktenstasti which issued the book "Triju Zvaigznu Atspidums," the story of three journalists who lost their lives

In January 1991 because of the certain political actions of the USSR Latvia's new independence was endangered. People in Riga ,Liepaja and Kuldiga started to build barricades on Jan 13 in a passive resistance signalling Latvians refusal to lose theri just regained independence. Gunshots at the barricades around a ministry building in Riga during action by Soviet Omon troops took the lives of eight people Who gave orders to shoot in attacking the Interior Ministry after 9 years is still a secret.

The first tragic news came from Vilnius where 13 people lost their lives and more than 100 where injured". Everybody new that the next step for the Soviets would be Riga.

Half a million people came together in center of Riga. at that time ,the most important question was are these people ready to fight for Latvia after seeing what had happened in Lithuania."

On the vening of Jan 20 in 1991, suddenly radio and TV programs were stopped with terrible news

" OMON troops are attacking the Interior Ministry ".

Two people from Riga's militia force, Sergejs Kononenko and Vladimirs Gomonovics, were killed that night. A dramatic video of the attack was seen by all the world, but journalists and camera men Andris Slapins and Gvido Zvaigzne were killed.

An expression between people who took part in Barricades has became a quotation from one of the Bauskas militia force men.

"We are remembered only in January and forgotten in January as well. I have a feeling that no one is interested in it any more."

Some feel that children of the men killed in 1991 should have special compensation.

Anita Mellupe has expressed her opinion in the newspaper Diena ,saying that since 1994 she has asked whether children who lost there fathers at the barricades should be treated the same way as children who lost there parents in other ways.

''The state should help them .When Andris Slapins and Gvido Zvaigzne were killed, Krisjans Zvaigzne still was a baby, and nobody knew, even not Andris Slapins himself, that little Andris Slapins would be born. Anna Slapina and Una Zvaigzne were still playing with dolls. But how much work mothers still have to bring them up," she said.

Andris Slapins' wife, Nataly and her children are living now in Moscow because the life there with her family is easier.

''We get enough help. We each get $20 a month from the Russian government, because we live here and I am working as well. Of course it is not enough but we can live," she said.

The barricade foundation gives them some money every year – this year 100 lats – but that money is just enough to cover travel costs.

The family does not receive any other benefits from Latvia, because they moved to Moscow.

"There are no special benefits for children who lost their parents at the barricades. They get the same benefits as others who have lost their parents. The amount of the pension that depends on how many years their parentswere working and what their salaries were,"

a spokesman at the state social insurance agency said

"These children should be supported by the state because their fathers died for Latvia's independence" said Renars Zalais, president of the 1991 years barricade foundation.

"We help these families as much as we can.We get money from the government, but that is just enough for foundation salaries and rent. There are only $3,000-$4,000 left to improve the exhibition," he said.

''Last year we asked Ministry of Welfare about a possibility to give monthly support to children who lost their fathers, but the answer was there is no law that these children should be treated differently. They suggested we work on the law and to turn to the Cabinet of Ministers.''

Extra money is unlikely, said Agrita Groza,deputy secretary of the Ministry of Welfare.

''The state supports all children who have lost their parents. There are ino special exceptions provided by the law for the children who lost their parents in at the barricades.''