Tarzier Memoirs

Part II   War and Awakening



Robert joined the war for Latvian independence in the turbulent year 1919, shortly after Karlis’arrest. Two years would pass before he could return to Druviena. Meanwhile, the family farm was in disarray from neglect and war requisitions. Robert was given leave in 1920 to put the farm back in order. Sometime in the year 1921 he prepared to leave the country with the Revivalist movement. The family sold the farm and liquidated all tools and remaining livestock, as well as most personal belongings, in preparation for the trip to Brazil. But Robert had never been officially discharged from military duty. His commander, having gotten wind of Robert’s intentions, locked him up in the military barracks at Daugavpils. Robert would serve one more year—MT

Following my father’s funeral in June of 1919, I reported back to my partisan unit at the Gulbene parish school. In a few days we were ordered to incorporate into the regular Latvian military, and I was assigned to a machine gun platoon. The infant state of Latvia was then struggling on two fronts: against the Red Army to the east, and the German baronial forces that controlled the south of Riga. Needless to say, we were poorly equipped and trained, but we made up for it in dedication. We initially faced the Germans at Trepe. Our assignment was to prevent the encirclement of Riga by keeping the Bermont-Awalov forces from crossing the river. There we remained until fall.

Our next move was west to Ikskile, also on the north shore of the Daugava, 25 km east of Riga. Defeating the baronial forces, we crossed the river and pushed south, chasing after them. We could now breathe more freely and even take a few pictures (see photos next page). There is a photo of myself with my automatic weapons squadron, standing on the ruins of a church on the banks of the Daugava in Ikskile. I am the one leaning on the rifle. Eventually we reached the southwest border of Germany, where we celebrated Christmas, 1919.

I almost lost my life on a sunny autumn day on the Daugava front. All was quiet, too quiet as it turned out. Off sentry duty, I casually strolled through the neighborhood and into an orchard. A juicy apple would really hit the spot, I thought. In the center of the orchard stood an outhouse, which reminded me of a nature call I had noticed a while before and forgotten in search for the perfect apple. Fortunately I did not linger in the outhouse, not my favorite spot to pass the time. As I stepped away some ten or fifteen paces, I heard the familiar and dreaded sound of a low flying object. The whistle came from a fast approaching missile—we called them mines—shot from a mine thrower. I automatically jumped into a ditch a few yards away. The mine struck the privy dead center, covering me with wood splinters and vile-smelling dirt. When I cautiously crawled out of the ditch, where the privy had stood there was now only a wide hole in the ground. Had I lingered a few seconds more, I would have been pulverized. In barely a heartbeat’s time, I would have ceased to exist.

After beating back the Germans, we were reassigned back to Latvia, this time to fight the Red Army. Early in 1920 we reached the ancient border between Russia and Latgale. Now military activity was scaled down to border patrols that kept track of Red Army movements on the other side. My unit did not push on to enter Russia proper but stayed put until August of that year, when the peace treaty was signed with Russia. In early spring of 1920, I was granted furlough to put the farm back on track. Badly shorthanded and devastated with grief, Mother and Peteris had let things fall into disrepair, and the Bolsheviks had confiscated our best work horse. In order to do spring sowing, the Latvian government gave us an army horse.

Spirit Speaks

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