Despite the hardship of the past year, the joys we’ve had with Uldis would not have happened without the understanding and efforts of everyone at Thompson House.
My husband has been my kind and loving soulmate for the past 48 years.
As a civil engineer, he was an active, hard-working man who took pride in designing Ontario’s highways. Above all, his family came first. These days Uldis’ day-to-day is much different but with help from the staff at Better Living, we are able to remain close as a family.
Uldis and I, as children, both lived in Latvian refugee camps after World War II. We both experienced the trauma of losing our homes, living in poverty, and struggling to emigrate to a new country to build a better life.
Our families were forced to flee Latvia in 1944 during the Soviet occupation of our country. At that time, I was just two years old, while Uldis was ten. Both families, along with thousands of others, made their way to United Nations refugee camps in Germany.
I was eight by the time my family was accepted for immigration into the U.S. in 1950. Uldis was fourteen when his family emigrated to Canada in 1949.
Life in refugee camps is always harsh, both present day and in the past. My refugee camp, near Oldenburg, Germany, was especially difficult because it had previously been used as a prisoner-of-war camp for Russian soldiers.
I remember living in barracks built of single wood boards with no insulation and no access to running water. In the winter, snow blew through the cracks between the boards onto our beds. In comparison, the refugee camp for Uldis’ family in Mannheim, Germany, was almost luxurious.
All the refugees there were placed in apartment buildings vacated during the war, allowing Uldis to see life in the camp as a great adventure. Both of us, later in life, admired the strength of our parents in being able to survive war and refugee camp life, each with three young children in tow.
Arriving in our newfound homelands, we were both fortunate to have strong Latvian communities supporting us. My family would often travel to Toronto for large community events, and in fact, it was during one of our trips to a large Latvian festival that I met Uldis.