RIGA - Top state officials participated in a V-E Day event in Riga Brethren Cemetery on May 8, with approximately 200 people in attendance, reports LETA. President Andris Berzins, Saima Chairwoman Solvita Aboltina and Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis were the first to lay flowers and wreaths, followed by foreign and defense ministers, foreign ambassadors, Saeima members and World War II veterans. After the flower-laying ceremony, the participants held a moment of silence.
The president told reporters after the ceremony that he was pleased at the public response to his appeal for reconciliation between World War II veterans.
“I believe that, judging from the reaction of war veterans, the process is on the right track,” said Berzins. “They realize that we live in one country, with one future. They all want to be recognized and, of course, a large part of them clearly have social problems at their age. Unfortunately, this is a very large portion of healthcare spending,” said the president.
Taking into consideration that the president cannot physically attend several events at the same time, Berzins’ representatives laid flowers at the graves of soldiers who fought on both sides of the war - in the Latvian Legionnaires Cemetery in Lestene, and in the Brethren Cemetery for Soviet Army soldiers in Dobele.
Soviet Army veteran Meijers Deics, who served in the Latvian Infantry Division, was injured three times, and ended the war fighting in the Courland Pocket, said he felt no hatred toward those who fought on the German side, and that he approved of Berzins’ initiative.
“This is right because so many years have passed. In fact, we stopped shooting at 2 p.m. on May 8 after we learned from the Germans that the war was over,” recalled Deics. “There was no hatred, because the war was over. Besides, the majority of those who fought on the German side had no desire to go to war. Today, it is 68 years since the end of the war, and to call them enemies... There were people among the Legionnaires who were drafted, and if they had said they would not go to war, they would have been shot. I just cannot call these people enemies,” Deics told reporters.
The veteran added that he would also participate in the May 9 celebrations, and went on to say that he considered Latvia his homeland, although he had an opportunity to emigrate to the United States and Israel in the past.
Many ethnic Russians celebrated May 9 in the Baltics as the end of WWII, though the Nazis gave their unconditional surrender on May 8, 1945.
May 9 in the Baltics marks Europe Day, celebrated with various events. On May 9, 1950, then-French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community, the forerunner of what is now the European Union.
Several events were to take place at the European Commission Representation in Latvia, including events for children and families, a discussion on senior citizens in Latvia and Europe, and a seminar on opportunities that the EU offers to young people.
Rigans and guests of the city were to be offered tastes of traditional Hungarian, Slovakian, Danish, Finnish, Spanish and other EU member state cuisines at the Latvian National Opera Square. Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis was to open the event, to be attended by representatives from the Foreign Ministry, European Commission Representation in Latvia and European Parliament members Inese Vaidere and Karlis Sadurskis.
Ahead of Europe Day, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics reminded the country that Latvia has always been, and will continue to be, a part of Europe.
“On the eve of the European Union’s birthday, I wish every Latvian resident to feel European, and to also feel special, being a European with roots in Latvia, who defend the nation’s culture, traditions and mentality,” Rinkevics said in his Europe Day greetings.
The foreign minister said that the main principles of post-war Europe are peace, mutual solidarity and stability in the region. These ideas are still alive today, and help keep together the European community.
“We celebrate May 9 as Europe’s birthday. The word Europe means something different to every individual; however, there are things that we all think about when we hear the word Europe. These are the continent’s ancient traditions, history and culture, which have been forged over centuries. Homer, Shakespeare, Dali, Mozart, as well as Vasks and Rozentals. This list of great European can be continued by anyone. We too in Latvia feel a part of this continent. We have always been Europeans, and will always continue to be Europeans,” Rinkevics said.