Sometimes part of the genealogy challenge can be staying on task. Recently it has been a lot of focus on my Kobler roots, but I have a whole side of my family on my mother side, the Albats, family that I don’t know as much about as I wish I did.
On that side I am proud to say I am a 1st generation American and without the sacrifices they made I might not be here, and it’s just been in the last few years I have really begun to understand the sacrifices they made.The Albats side of my family are of Latvian descent. My grandfather Bruno Albats (1908-1995) was apparently a rather important figure in the American Latvian Association, as well as the World Federation of Free Latvians. His father Herman Albats (1879-1942) was also a well-respected diplomat, scholar and poet, until his deportation and death in the Soviet Gulag Camps in 1942.
I was sheltered from much of my Latvian roots, by distance, and in some ways design, as my mother did something that very few of her upbringing did, she married into the “American Family”, and embraced it. She did not want us burdened by the pain and struggles of the past, so we were spared much of the history, and much of the ongoing pain that my grandparents felt at being ripped away from their home, their country, and their freedom.
I was always a bit ignorant as it related to my mother’s side of the family. I knew they were from Latvia. I knew my mother came here when she was very young, only about 6 or 7. I know she was very conscious about herself, and in fact made sure that once she learned english she learned it with no accent at all. It was grammatically perfect.
We as children we never really exposed too much to the Latvian plight. While it was “omni” present in our lives, it was not something that we lived with on a consistent basis. I had a fairly vague idea that my grandfather did something important but it wasn’t until he passed aways that I really understood the magnitude of what he accomplished in his life. He was an accomplished Lawyer, a Latvian judge, and someone who wanted more than anything to see his country free again. I remember as a child seeing my mother attend some Latvian functions dressed in some of the traditional sorority dress, and remember going to a ceremony where my grandfather was honored for his works, but until recently I didn’t know that the award was the “People’s Award” from the WFLA.
They became US Citizens, and cherished their rights. They voted in every election, and he encouraged me to be a part of that process. They never took for granted that those rights could be taken away.
Through it all he always wished to see his home be free again. A dream he lived to see when Latvia again gained its independence in 1993.