US, Canadian Latvians support work stoppages in their homeland
Boston — ''We are troublemakers,'' says Linard Lukss of Toronto. ''Our country has been occupied illegally by the Soviet Union for 41 years. We intend to be free.''
Dr. Lukss ''rabble rouses'' on behalf of Latvia, incorporated ''unwillingly'' he says, along with two other Baltic nations, Estonia and Lithuania, into the USSR in 1940. He is chairman of the Latvian Association of Canada. His current mission is to encourage American and Canadian support of a ''work stoppage'' in the three Baltic states at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1.
Dr. Lukss visited Boston recently to address the local Latvian Association at its celebration of Latvian independence day. The original date was Nov. 18, 1918 , and Latvians in the United States and Canada observe this day throughout November.
Latvia - which dates back to the 13th century as a nation - became an independent democratic republic after World War I, signing a peace treaty with the Soviet Union in 1920. Latvians claim this treaty was broken in August 1940 when the USSR declared Latvia ''a Soviet Socialist Republic.'' The US has never officially recognized this takeover, and Latvia maintains an official legation in Washington.
''We Baltic peoples in the New World support the Dec. 1 work stoppage,'' he told a Boston audience, speaking in Latvian. ''In the Baltic states, we encourage Russians to back our protest. We plan future work stoppages each month.''
Nationals of Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania ''came together'' and voted Nov. 17, the day before ''independence day,'' for the demonstration in their homelands, Lukss says.
''Life will stop in Baltic countries between 10 and 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 1,'' he said. ''We have only two demands: improve the standard of living; stop violations of our human rights. We shall hold a work stoppage once a month on a working day. The Baltic people have come beyond the fear and terror of the past, the fear that we can do nothing.''
''There is no glory to this activity,'' said Lukss in an interview as he referred to the Federation of World Latvians. ''Our job really is to turn world attention to our homelands, to assist our nationalists - the USSR calls them dissidents - regain independence for their homelands. We seek moral support from America. We speak for our people who cannot fight back for themselves.''
Reflecting on his native land, Lukss said that 20 percent of its population is Russian, since the Soviet Union sends people to work and live there.
Nevertheless, Latvians work to perpetuate their own culture. The Boston Latvian independence program was conducted entirely in Latvian. The association provided interpreters for reporters.
Aristids Lambergs, chairman of the sponsoring group, explained: ''We have no false hopes that Latvia will suddenly arise, rebel, and be free. Our role today is to let the free world know that we are ready to rise and some day claim what is rightfully ours. The Latvians of our native land look to us to tell the world. They could become a minority in their own land.''
During Latvia's years of independence, 1918-40 only 666 people emigrated from that nation to the United States. Since the end of World War II, however, more than 200,000 Latvians have ''sought refuge'' in America, says Lambergs.
In the United States Latvians continue to preserve their ethnic identity through the American Latvian Association founded in Washington, D.C., in 1951. This organization operates its own publishing house, which publishes textbooks for Latvian ethnic schools. It sponsors three Latvian language summer high schools.
Latvian is the ''second oldest living Indo-European'' language (English is included in this group of languages) in the world, says Dr. Lukss.
''We have no Baltic hot line to our native land,'' Dr. Lukss said, ''but we believe Latvia will one day regain its freedom.''