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RIGA - If Latvian residents are not stopped from leaving the country, Latvia's independence will be in doubt ten years from now, Presidents Andris Berzins pointed out during his address at the Freedom Monument on March 25, honoring the victims of the 1949 deportations.
Berzins emphasized that more than 5,000 children under the age of ten were deported to Siberia on March 25, 1949. Out of more than 44,000 deportees, those who returned struggled to survive.
Berzins inquired in his speech if Latvia had achieved what it originally wanted to achieve during the 22 years of the renewed independence, and what the country's development in the future would be.
As reported, over 43,000 innocent people were deported to Siberia from March 25 to March 29, 1949, including some 10,000 children, as well as young people, mothers with infants, old and sick, even dying people.
Many of the deportees died on their way to the exile destination, others spent long and difficult years in the northern regions of Russia, fighting for their and their children's survival in inhumane conditions.
Those who managed to return back home after years of exile had strongly suffered morally and physically and had lost their property. Furthermore, the Soviet regime treated them with suspicion, making it difficult to obtain a relevant education and even to choose profession and place of residence.
The March 25, 1949 deportations concerned around 2.28 percent of all residents of Latvia. Altogether, 9,000 families were included in the list of deportees, which was drawn up on March 17, 1949.