Re: Bittersweet article about Latgalia
- From: "vello" <vellokala@xxxxxx>
- Date: 7 Dec 2005 12:15:57 -0800
Eugene Holman wrote:
> Posted with no comment.
> Source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/12/06/news/latvia.php
> Migration's flip side: All roads lead out
> By Dan Bilefsky
> TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6, 2005
> TURKI, Latvia In this poor but proud farming region, where many of the
> small wooden houses have no electricity and people still read by
> candlelight, nearly every third home sits empty. Their occupants have gone
> to pick mushrooms in Ireland.
> When Laima Muktupavela left more than three years ago, she moved into a
> dusty three-room house near Dublin with 11 other Latvians and picked
> mushrooms from 6 a.m. to sundown. The farm's owner forbade the Latvians to
> wear gloves and the mushrooms quickly turned her fingers black. She
> sautéed mushrooms for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She earned about 215,
> or $250, a week - more than one and a half times the monthly minimum wage
> back home - and splurged on a new gray wool coat.
> Back in Latvia, her four children felt abandoned. Her 16-year-old
> daughter, Anna, sent angry letters in envelopes filled with her baby
> pictures. Her partner, who is now her husband, met someone else.
> Tormented by the prospect of permanent exile, Muktupavela returned to
> Latvia. She wrote a book about her experiences, "The Mushroom Covenant,"
> which tapped into the national fear about the growing exodus of Latvians
> to Ireland. It became a best seller.
> "There is hardly a family left in this country who hasn't lost a son or
> daughter or mother or father to the mushroom farms of Ireland," said
> Muktupavela, an ebullient 43-year-old.
> She pointed to a vast field peppered with abandoned houses, their
> occupants departed to the handful of European Union countries - Ireland,
> Sweden, Britain - that opened their borders to the bloc's newest members
> when they joined in May 2004.
> Freedom to cross the EU's borders unhindered was a reward of membership
> that natives in this Baltic country of 2.3 million people aspired to after
> 50 years of Soviet occupation.
> But as other EU countries grapple with whether to admit inexpensive
> laborers from Eastern and Central Europe, fearful that it will undermine
> their social standards, the case of Latvia shows how migration can exact a
> heavy toll on the country they leave behind.
> While there are no official statistics, Latvian officials estimate that
> 50,000 to 100,000 people have emigrated over the last 18 months, as many
> as 25,000 of them to Ireland. In the latest high-profile departure,
> Latvians watched with horror last month when the Olympic biathlete Jekabs
> Nakums announced on television that he was leaving to go wash cars in
> The exodus of economic migrants from Eastern Europe to their wealthier
> neighbors in the West has been a growing phenomenon since EU expansion
> last year. But the trend has been particularly pronounced in Latvia
> because the country's average monthly minimum wage of 90 lats, or 130, is
> the lowest in the 25-member bloc, while price increases since accession
> have been highest here.
> The Latvian government hopes the migrants will come back, armed with new
> skills and languages. But migration studies suggest that two-thirds will
> never return.
> "During the Cold War, we all dreamed of leaving," Muktupavela said, "but
> the risk is that if everyone leaves, then the country will disappear."
> The voluntary migration of so many Latvians has a particularly painful
> resonance in a country where up to 100,000 people were deported to Siberia
> in the years following Soviet occupation in 1940 as part of the Kremlin's
> effort to Russify the country.
> Latvians fear that the current exodus is destroying the country's social fabric.
> In the Latgale farming region here in eastern Latvia, parents who emigrate
> to Ireland to pick mushrooms often leave their children behind, creating a
> new generation of "mushroom orphans." The children live with their
> grandparents or are shuffled back and forth from Latvia to Ireland. On the
> mushroom farm where Muktupavela worked, several Latvians started families
> with Irish spouses, leaving their Latvian families.
> In Riga, more than 100 children aged 14 or younger are living alone or
> with family friends, according to the International Organization for
> Migration. In September, there was a national outcry when a seven-year-old
> girl got lost on the way home from school and it was discovered that her
> parents were living in Ireland.
> Muktupavela, who has been documenting the migration in a collection of
> short stories, recently visited Turki, a small village in Latgale, where
> residents said they were counting the days until the village disappeared
> from the map. Faced with a new loneliness, a group of Latgalians meet
> regularly at Turki's public library - a log cabin lit by candles - to
> discuss how the exodus is affecting their town.
> Valiya Vecele, 62, a retired pensioner, said she was becoming nostalgic
> for the Russian occupation.
> "At least then, everyone had work and we went to parties," she said. "Now
> we sit around - we sit and we wait."
> She said she was lonesome for her son, who left for Dublin five years ago
> to work in a frozen food factory, leaving her grandson behind.
> Fear of abandonment also haunts Lucija Lackaja, 50, an unemployed
> shopkeeper, whose daughter Linda left for Edinburgh in August to work as a
> waitress in a hotel so she could pay back a 1,000 student loan. Linda
> earns 7.20 an hour, as much as her sister Vita, a waitress in Latvia,
> earns in a day.
> Now Vita, 21, also wants to move to Edinburgh, a prospect Lucija is
> dreading. Vita - bubbly, articulate and pretty - said she wanted to buy a
> car, new clothes, a computer and a television. "I want to have a normal
> life," she said.
> The search by young Latvians for a better life abroad, however, risks
> undermining the economy. Although the migration has given Latvia a
> short-term economic lift - the World Bank estimates that funds sent home
> by migrants amount to 230 million annually - economists say this benefit
> is being offset by a brain drain in key sectors such as construction,
> nursing and medicine.
> And while EU membership has helped spur a development boom in Riga,
> construction companies complain that there are too few qualified workers.
> Marcis Nikolajevs, managing director of an association of Latvian
> construction contractors, said that companies were being forced to import
> workers from nearby Ukraine and Belarus. The association also is
> considering flying in temporary construction workers from Ghana. "We used
> to be a proud people," he said. "This migration is a national tragedy."
> A shortage of doctors and nurses has also gripped the country because so
> many have left to work in hospitals in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, where
> the pay is better.
> Dr. Harijs Knesis, an anesthesiologist at the Ars Medical Clinic in Riga,
> said he was fed up with getting less than 10 for a routine visit and was
> considering emigrating to the United States. "Doctors are getting rich in
> the U.S. and Europe, while we work for nothing," he said.
> Krisjanis Karins, Latvia's economics minister, said the only way to stem
> the migration was to close the wage gap with the EU's richer countries.
> The government recently increased the monthly minimum wage. "There is no
> quick fix," admitted Karins, whose cousin recently left Latvia to work in
> construction in Britain. "Jobs do not grow on trees."
> Expanding immigration to Latvia could offset the migration trend. But
> Latvia's history of Soviet occupation has made it hard for the country to
> integrate its own sizable Russian minority, and fears about the arrival of
> more non-Latvians remain strong.
> The country has only one naturalized refugee, Haisam Abu Abda, a
> Palestinian, who emigrated to Manchester in November because he wanted
> higher wages. "I love Latvia," he said, "but the prices are going up, up,
> up and my needs are going up, up, up and there was no way I could stay."
> Not everyone bemoans the exodus.
> Irish officials says the influx of Latvians has been good for the economy
> since Balts work hard and are willing to take low-level jobs that upwardly
> mobile Irish avoid.
> "The free movement of Eastern Europeans has been good for the Irish
> economy," said Tim Mawe, Ireland's ambassador to Latvia. But he added: "I
> don't think it's a good thing when you have Latvian brain surgeons doing
> McDonald's jobs."
> Muktupavela, nicknamed "McPavela" by her Irish friends, credits her time
> in Ireland for turning her into an independent person and literary star.
> She is now writing her fifth novel and is working on a film about the
> She notes that Latvia's experience has deep parallels with that of
> Ireland, a formerly poor agrarian country where migration was once common,
> but one that has become an economic powerhouse and magnet for immigration.
> "Twenty years from now it is the Irish who will be flooding into Latvia
> and not the other way around," Muktupavela said. Meanwhile, she is
> considering buying a house in Ireland, not far from a mushroom farm.
As you put it without comments, let me put some here.
I made a quick tour in Google. Data for Ireland: population 3,9
million, immigration 50 000 per year (2004) down from 69 000 in 2002.
40-45% from immigrants are re-emigrating irishmen.
It takes really good imagination to think that almost ALL immigrants of
non-Irish origin are from Latvia and all directly to ...mushroom
Nice is also data from "Latvian officials" (drunken policeman in Riga,
communicating in russian?) about 100 000 emigrants in 18 months. Not so
big number per se, but if to have in mind Latvian population of 2,3
millions it means 4,3% population loss in 18 months - sounds more like
nuclear war then mushroom picking. At last much higher then losses in
ww2 for any country participating. For 2035-2040 Latvia will be empty
as Universe before Creation:-) Sad for Ireland as for 2040 they will
have near 40% latvian minority loudly demanding latvian as second state
I often had to advice US journalists to use %% if talking about
Estonia, not exact numbers - for US reader ANY real no in countries
like Estonia or Latvia sounds weirdly small to even talk about it.
Eugene, why you put that piece here - you are not as stupid as that
- Bittersweet article about Latgalia
- From: Eugene Holman
- Bittersweet article about Latgalia
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