I stood uneasily at the door to welcome Latvians living in Scotland to the first ever official Latvian day celebration in Scotland. Why the uncomfortable feeling? It was to be the first time there had been such an event, and I did not know what to expect.
I need not have been concerned, for what was to come was both a resounding success and an emotional experience to match any family event. On the Monday before, we expected 12 guests to the party at the Scottish Arts Club in Edinburgh. By Wednesday the numbers had swollen to 50 and on the night we had over 80 visitors from as far afield as Ullapool, Fraserburgh, Glasgow, Peterhead, Stirling and even two from London.
I gave a short introduction of welcome and explained the program for the evening. The first event being the presentation of a short film on Latvia, followed by the showing of the president’s speech and the traditional singing of the national anthem with not a dry eye in the house. This was the trigger for the guests to participate and the singing was started by the oldest Latvian in the room, the famous sculptor, Zigi Sapietis, rumored to be in his 90’s, followed by poetry recitals, further songs and a story about what it’s like to be a Latvian abroad on important days of the year.
Charles Cormack told us about the great work the Scottish Latvian Foundation has embarked upon, and Joan Marshall circulated with raffle tickets for some fine Latvian prizes. About £140 was raised from the raffle and the entrance fee contributed a further £400 for the charity that evening. Food and wine was provided by the organizers, but delightfully, our guests brought some of their own fare which ensured that the evening was comprehensively Latvian; even some Balsams was found. Genadijs Marjevskis gave the vote of thanks and particular mention was made of the fabulous efforts of the co-organisers Anastasia Zencika and Veronika Jones, who tirelessly worked away with only limited resources and made the event not only happen, but a great success.
Our guests mingled, made new friends, ate and drank well and left after 9 p.m., confirming that next year needs to be bigger and better. It was a great success, and what a relief.
November 18, 2010
John A. S. McGregor FRICS is Latvian Honorary Consul to Scotland Edinburgh, EH1 2 AE, United Kingdom