Posts Tagged ‘ Latvia ’

A Peephole into the Eastern War – Stormtrooper on the Eastern Front by Mintauts Blosfelds

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Stormtrooper on the Eastern Front: Fighting with Hitler’s Latvian SS

History is the realm of the victors and the losers lose to the winner’s propaganda but I’m interested in the truth behind what really happened rather than the reassuring lies countries often tell themselves.

I have a personal connection to this history story. My grandfather was conscripted into the ranks of the German army and torn away from his 6 month child. So, I know this history well and I feel the book needs some background as it covers a very controversial part of the war.

Blosfelds does a brilliant thing by playing his part in countering the propaganda still surrounding the Baltic state SS units with this publication. They were not a part of the holocaust and were only fighting units. They fought to save their own countries from Russian and German rule and they stood very little chance but they fought on anyway. They were brave men.

On to the book.

The diary entries show the life of a soldier in his unit. This provides an insight into what went on behind the lines as well as the culture of the German army. It is a personal account and, as such, feels more dramatic than a documentary or dry history dates. The boring acts are often brushed over in favour of the more dramatic.

However, the individual it follows did not see much front line action. He was injured a lot and spent a lot of time on trains through Latvia as well as training camps. This has some historical interest as well as the front lines as it shows where training took place and names areas “behind the lines” which are often not mentioned in mainstream history.

As a whole, there is very little documentation of the Latvian SS units from within/personal accounts so this book is very valuable in its existence.

This doesn’t mean I can’t be disappointed. The narrator had a very youthful and naive view of the war. He was easily influenced and seemed to be in it more for the fun and alcohol which jars with post war feeling. He did not fight for his country and looked down upon the older men who were conscripted and didn’t want to fight. Their reasons feel more honourable.

This blights his character for me and makes the read less enjoyable. It is not a fault of the narrator. He was only young and easily influenced but an older narrative could show so much more of the war from so many different viewpoints. It would allow more than the one narrator’s viewpoint to be explored as an older man would be able to see from another’s shoes.

But would I read this again or recommend it to people searching for family in Latvia or looking to find out more about the Eastern front? Despite its cost, yes.

This is a book which details the personal side of the Eastern War. It lives through procedures which can be lost or become boring in pages and pages of dry historical record. It highlights a regiment swept under the carpet or railed against after the war in a neutral, in the moment, light. I only wish there were more accounts like this, and expanding upon this, out there.

But more than anything else, this book gives me a vague idea of what my grandfather went through and why he never spoke about the war.

My rating? 4/5.

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A Story About a Shoe

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This is pretty much what it looks like. On holiday in Latvia, on two occasions, I saw a shoe bereft of its partner. In both cases, these shoes were heels and left standing as if someone walked right out of them. Any girl should know this is odd: even really drunk, there is a rather large discrepancy between a heeled foot and an unheeled foot.

My father and I actually stared at this shoe for a good ten minutes, wondering what could have happened to the owner and one of these musings got me an idea for a story to submit to the hgwells festival competition for 2013. I started the story yesterday and intend to finish up the last little bits today.

Goes to show: inspiration is anywhere and within the most unlikely of objects.

If you have a weird event that inspired a story, let me know! Let’s see how weird it gets.

Hope all are well.

Holly Ice

Procrastination, Snot and Writing

 

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It’s about time I updated you all about my own writing. So far this summer I have one short story provisionally accepted, two rejected and two still waiting on replies. In addition, one poem has been accepted for publication this summer. I also have 2-3 stories I still need to polish and find a home for.

I’m not sure if this is good or bad for a writer – is a 25% success rate good, average, bad? I’m sure you all can share your experiences and let me know. Rejection is always hard but the major problem for me is confidence.

Yes, I’ve had things published, a number now actually, but so what? Many people get things published and are never heard of or are, in literary circles, a joke.

I shouldn’t care about that, I know. I should get on with my creative vision and love the lives I create but sometimes it gets to me. Encouragement and determination are what gets a book written and, I will admit, I have been procrastinating.

I have had god awful hayfever and often it has stopped me from sleeping – the blocked and running nose kind, the prequel to the you-will-never-breathe-again worry. It has made me miserable down to my toes and up to my very foggy head. It felt like I was on lag for weeks.

Thankfully the doctor has prescribed some steroid-based nasal spray and stronger anti-histamines. So far, much better. Here’s hoping to clearer thoughts, and noses!

The reprieve has given me some motivation, enough to finish writing a story for Almond Press’ new anthology ‘After the Fall‘. I have a holiday to go on next week (Latvia here I come) and after that it’s time to delve back into the novel, for better or worse.

As most writers, I just have to give myself one big dose of ‘you aren’t that bad’ and get on with it.

Good luck to the rest of you in my position!

See you all in a week.

Holly Ice

Fish or Beef? Family and Taste.

We all know family changes us. There’s the big nature/nurture argument to go with it. What if our ancestry, our genes, does too?

The three pictures of forests spread throughout this post, for example, show the diversity of life even within one snapshot of forest. Place effects story and lives so much. Don’t forget if your story is based in cold climates to make it snow in winter or in wet climates to have swampy areas etc. Think about how these climates affect lifestyles, too; do they swim, canoe, ski, snowboard, travel, hitch-hike, rock climb?

Place is more important than you think. I read a book last year: Who’s your city? by Richard Florida. The idea is that certain qualities in people such as creativeness, liberalism, traditional etc will draw people to certain areas where these qualities are popular and centralised. It makes for an interesting read and some videos can be found online that talk about it. I read it as a: where should I live? Where would I like?

These qualities, if in the wrong amounts for your character, can, of course, create a lot of great tension in a piece. It’s worth experimenting with!

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Many families don’t know much of their history, at least not beyond grandparents. This can be where you find out who you really are. I’m not plugging any ancestry sites – usually the best information is on site anyway – but perhaps there are some places you can get started.

Personally, I know my grandfather was Latvian. I’ve looked into their culture, their way of life, and realised a lot of it I’d picked up without ever going there. From an incredibly young age I’ve loved anything pickled and vinegary. I thought, and still do think, that it is sweet. In Latvia dishes like sauerkraut and verrry vinegary fish are common place.

I also love potatoes and prefer chicken to beef. I also absolutely love fish. A lot of these things are popular or usual in Latvia, too.

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Perhaps it would be useful to get into your own histories to find a story. I’m thinking of writing a novel based in Latvia so perhaps there is a whole story of injustice, love or adventure hiding in your past too, whatever origin you may have.

If not, at least this might give you ideas about how to portray characters from other cultures: often they’ll pick up some, if not all, of the likes and taste, even if they never lived there.

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