of the Gulag
Sandra Kalniete was born in Togur in Siberia in December 1952 to parents deported during the two operations in Latvia – her mother in the June 1941 operation aimed at “socially dangerous elements”, and her father in 1949 as the son of a “bandit”, one of the resistance fighters against the Red Army and the Sovietisation of Latvia.
Sandra discovered her parents’ homeland at the age of 5 and grew up as a typical Soviet child, not knowing until she was an adult of the sufferings her parents had undergone. Discovering these sufferings was for her a “trauma after the event”. She felt she was responsible for transmitting this new memory she had received as a legacy and became the representative and symbol of Latvian collective suffering.
Sandra Kalniete became a founding member of the Popular Front of Latvia and one of the political actors in Latvia’s transition, and was appointed ambassador to the UN, minister of foreign affairs and European Commissioner.
After reading Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, she decided to write the history of her mother’s and father’s families. Her memoirs, published in 2001, and translated into many languages (in English, With Dance Shoes in Siberian Snows), rapidly became a major reference among public memorial accounts of the Soviet purges in Latvia. She is now a member of the European Parliament and fights for these purges to be recognised as a “genocide” by the European authorities.
© Sandra Kalniete Sandra and her mother on the shores of the Baltic, 1957
© Sandra Kalniete Sandra and her mother in Latvia, July 1957
© Sandra Kalniete Sandra’s mother (left) with her deportee friends in Latvia, July 1957
© Sandra Kalniete Sandra’s parents, Ligita and Aivars Kalnietis, a few weeks after their release, spring 1957
© Sandra Kalniete Sandra’s parents, Ligita and Aivars Kalnietis, a few weeks after their release, </br> Riga, spring 1957
© Sandra Kalniete Sandra aged 6, in Latvia, 1958
© Sandra Kalniete