The life story of Jānis Pavasars (born Zābaks) is written in the period from 1965 to 1989. It is divided by year, setting down key events both for the family and at a national and international level. In addition to the day-to-day, events that have were a first-time experience, or of great turmoil or excitement are highlighted. During his lifetime, Jānis spent time in various places around Latvia and beyond its borders, so a significant part of the story is occupied by descriptions of a variety of geographic locations.
The first autobiographical entry was made on 2 April 1965 and describes Jānis’ birth in 1912 in “Vecmārtiņi” in Kolberģi with the introductory words: “To write my autobiography—this idea came to me several years ago. Why? I can’t tell you. Perhaps to remember years gone by, the old days that are beginning to fade from my memory. As they are no different from those of my contemporaries, perhaps it would be better not to waste the paper?—No, I’ll write anyway, because there is no other like me and cannot be. Enough philosophizing. Now down to work.”
His childhood is described poetically—as carefree, but modest days spent with brothers and sisters (a family had seven children), helping his parents with farmwork and exploring the area surrounding the house. In addition to rolling a hoop and other children’s games, Jānis set down what was most important for—how many livestock, how much arable land was managed, how the servants moved on Jurģi Day, how cattle grazing had gone.
1922 was a significant year for Jānis as he began elementary school in Beja Parish. The author provides a detailed description of daily life at the school—with 50–60 boys sleeping in the same room, going to the school outhouse for the first time, where “it was practically demonstrated how to sit on the ‘brille’ [outhouse toilet seat]”, the material security and survival of his schoolmates, the three primary school teachers there at the time, as well as going home on holiday as a big event. Starting 6th grade, Jānis describes how he played football for the first time, as the school’s benevolence had allowed them to buy a ball. And he managed to hear a radio for the first time that year. And the end of year 6, 2 June was remembered for its atypical weather conditions: “The trees have already grown leaves, but it snowed overnight and was snowing the next morning. The leafy forest was covered in snow.”
After 1934, Jānis records a greater number of reflections of the political event in John's record with each passing year: “1934 was significant, not only with an early spring, but also with the “end of democracy”. On May 15 (I was in Vecāķi for geodesic work) the Saeima was driven out and a dictatorship was established. [..] Economic life became livelier, but the dictatorship ‘smothered’ us.”
“1941. Spring is coming. The air is growing thick. A peace treaty seems to be hanging in the air. Not even 0.00% believe it now. Then came a dramatic June. The night of the 13th to the 14th VI. Tragic, tragic, tragic! On July 1st, the Germans march into Riga. The Germans remain Germans, the nation has already known them for 700 years. Nothing good can be expected of them.”
In Jānis record for 1957 the reader is told: “At international level, supposedly ‘there is no change on the Western Front’. De-Stalinization continues at the level of the [Soviet] Union. Juris [Jānis’ son] turns 13.” To this entry the author adds that in 1957 he bought himself a wristwatch—‘Kama’—and his son received his first camera.
The reader can follow along with major developments in Jānis’ family in the context of national and international political developments up to the year 1985, although the author acknowledges that writing his life story for 11 years had not been easy: “It is not advisable to write a life story with long breaks, because the thread of memory that sometimes begins so well can break and then it is not so easy to tie it again, or, frankly, patched or tied remains patched.”
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