In 2022, the census in Ireland estimated that 18,300 Latvian citizens live in this country, and six years ago it was decided to look for people we can be proud of in Ireland as well. The beginnings of this can be found in the presentation of Latvian pride awards, because in 2011, two Latvians living in Ireland, Inguna and Imants Mieži, received this award, which to some extent pushed Irish Latvians to hold their own ceremony. It encourages a wider and deeper look at the Latvian society in Ireland, because not all of the nominees are from active and lively compatriots.
Ilze Ceiča, organizer of the “Pride of Latvia in Ireland” project, explained: “Our goal is to find and honor people whose lifestyle and actions can be proud not only of Latvia, but also of Ireland. And we want to publicly express our appreciation to these people. “Pride of Latvia in Ireland ” is an honorary title award for selfless and unselfish help to fellow human beings, as well as special achievements in culture, art and sports. So, in principle, any Latvian in Ireland fits into this definition. The nominations are all kinds, the main thing is to find these people.”
Irish Latvians find their pride thanks to letters from their fellow citizens, which we wait to receive from April until the end of summer. Then the jury comes together, decides and decides, to whom and in which nominations to award the prize, but the honoring takes place on national holidays. The list of nominations is not set in stone, they adapt to the list of good deeds done, however, the constant nominations are “With a dance for Latvia” and “With a song for Latvia” and “Teacher”. The others are variable from year to year – depending on the performance of the nominee.
It is especially pleasant for the organizers of the project when the award is received by someone whom the active Irish Latvian community hears about for the first time. Such examples inspire and help fulfill dreams.
Gunita Barsčauska, who last year received an award in the nomination “Inspirer – guardian of the language”, stated: “My work is related to people, I inspire them, help them fulfill their dreams, I address people, looking for those who write poetry, novels, stories, and we try them publish their works.”
Gunita writes poetry, lives in Ireland with her husband and daughter. Her daily life is spent in a wheelchair, but despite this, Gunita inspires others with her vitality. Her poetry has changed while living in Ireland, turning from love to more global issues: “You don’t believe in yourself that what you do is needed by someone”.
Even in the family, Gunita’s conversational language is Latvian, because she believes that one should stick to the roots.
Zane Puncule agreed to this, who together with her husband Mārtīns Puncule received an award in the nomination “Latvian family” in 2021. Zane and Mārtiņš used to live in the big cities of Ireland, but when they both met and started a family, they decided that they should start realizing their dreams, so the plan also included moving to the Irish countryside. They are the parents of three children – Linus, Marta and Milda – and they chose life in the countryside precisely for the sake of the children. When managing the land, Punculi tries alternative methods, permaculture and microbiology.
Regarding the “Pride of Latvia in Ireland” award, Zane said that it is still a big surprise for themselves, because they do not feel they deserve anything in particular. “We just can’t help it. It’s involvement in diaspora schools, even though we’re in such big rural areas that we don’t go to the city, I’m moderating the group of moms and dads online [tiešsaistē – red.]. I am also a birth doula and also end of life or lifelong sleep doula, because birth and death are inseparable,” she said.
The fact that the activity is noticed and given a prize is satisfying, but at the same time it also gives a greater sense of responsibility for what you do. And doers don’t stop doing, wherever they are. This is confirmed by the example of Ilze Stīpniece, who received the “Pride of Latvia in Ireland” award in the nomination “Guardian of Latvia” in 2020, when she and her family moved to Latvia: “I lived in Ireland for 16 years and all this time I did everything to talk about Latvia and Latvian. It has been noticed, and I am grateful for this award. It motivates me to continue what I have started, not to rest. You will ask what I am doing now? I am doing the same thing, only with other people. When I hear – Ireland, Irish Latvians – I get goosebumps run away, tears in my eyes… I can’t, it’s very emotional.”
In any case, the award is important for Latvian society in Ireland, but it is certainly worth looking at it for Latvians living elsewhere, because the recipients of this award allow you to understand and understand what the Latvian society is like there, what current events and important stopping points. As Zane Puncule pointed out:
“What you do from the heart cannot evaporate into thin air. It will show sooner or later.”
“Global Latvian. 21st century”