Ilze Berzins

I’ve written about Bēķi in my autobiographical book HAPPY GIRL (1997) and have continued writing about Bēķi in my mother’s biography PORTRAIT OF A LATVIAN BEAUTY (2009).

Bēķi Cemetery is where my beloved mother now lies, next to my father and close to my grandparents and great grandparents.

At my age now (God, almost 68!) I often wonder where I myself will find a last resting place.

In just a few months I’ll be leaving Canada. Re-settling in the USA will be quite a wrench but I’m used to it. I’ve been uprooted so many times before. From Latvia to Germany, then to Canada where I never really felt at home and couldn’t wait to get back to Europe—to France, England and finally to post-Soviet Latvia.

Today I came across a photo of my apartment in Bēķi House. My kilim is on the floor, my antique writing table and chairs by the window. I’m filled with emotion—mainly sadness.

It’s not my apartment any more.

Not one tiny piece of Bēķi belongs to me. Not a trace of my ancestor’s legacy is mine.

 The vast expanse of Bēķi– the majestic allee of trees leading to the main house, the workers’ cottage, the green fields, the lush forest and the family cemetery now belongs to my brother. It’s all uniquely his. He and his non-Latvian wife are now ‘saimnieks’ and ‘saimniece’.

 Is this just?

Interestingly enough, both my brother and his wife are seen here in Ottawa as great advocates of ‘justice’—‘justice’ as a vague abstraction and a legal ideal never attained in real life.

I wonder if this is a unique family feud over heritage.

Latvian society, at least in the past, was patriarchal.

But Bēķi was my mother’s inheritance, passed on to her by her mother.

The link from grandmother to mother to daughter has now been broken. Will it ever be repaired? 

Who will safeguard my ancestral home?

Will it be sold to the highest bidder?

( I will post in “comments” stories some of my readers and friends have kindly shared with me. )



  1. ilzeberzins writes:

    My friend Marga who lives in Australia writes:

    How I would like to rid myself of all assets in Latvia before I die!!
    Doubt Latvia will let me.
    For me getting back Kalna Pavulini, the farm where both my father and I were born, was only a silly romantic dream and I’ve paid dearly for that dream.
    Enough is enough!

  2. ilzeberzins writes:

    My husband, George Butlers, has his own story of his ancestral home in Latvia.He promised he’d write it himself as soon as his final exam is over. (Wednesday)
    If he passes the State of Maine will give him a license to practice medicine. If he doesn’t pass…
    Well then I guess I’ll be looking for a paying job again.

  3. ilzeberzins writes:

    Today is the second anniversary of my mother’s death.
    As she wished, her ashes are resting in Beki Cemetary next to her husband and close to her parents and grandparents.
    My mother had two younger brothers. The youngest, Karlis Beldavs, “rests” next to his wife Helga in Mezaparka Cemetary.
    Her other brother, Dr Jazeps Beldavs, is now 96 years of age. He has chosen as his “resting place” a cemetary in the Catskill Mountains, the thought being that he will be with his wife Alise when his time comes and when her time comes.
    Of the three children of Beki my mother is the only one who had wished to be placed in the family cemetary. Of the two grandchildren of Beki I am the only one who wishes to “rest” there.

  4. ilzeberzins writes:

    My dear friend Irene writes:
    When Pappi came to Canada and we moved to Windsor he right away bought 12 plots in the cemetary. That was the only land he owned. For 50$ or so.
    Now about 8 graves have been filled so far with our relatives. There’s a spot beside my husband for me and Ellen has a couple of spots.
    It is good to know where you will be buried. It eases the mind and I don’t think there is anything morbid about it.

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