On 14 June, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted a book launch for “It’s Only Myself That I Know Now: A Diplomat’s Diary and Memoirs (1941–1961)” by Ludvigs Sēja, former Foreign Minister and diplomat, persecuted by occupational regimes.
In his remarks to the audience, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs noted that besides laying flowers at the Freedom Monument on 14 June to pay tribute to the victims of Communist genocide, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has established a new tradition of launching a book or unveiling an exhibition devoted to members of the Foreign Service – diplomats subject to repressions in 1941.
The Foreign Minister recalled that last year saw the presentation of a very emotional exhibition displaying documents about people in the Latvian Foreign Service who were persecuted, shot, deported to Siberia. Today, a year later, together with colleagues from the Lauku Avīze publishing house, we are launching a book on a former Foreign Minister and Ambassador Ludvigs Sēja. His fate and the fates of many other Latvian diplomats in the late 1930s and the early ‘40s are closely intertwined with the history of the Latvian Foreign Service. There were people who perished in Stalin’s camps. There were people who kept reminding the world of Latvia – Ambassador Kārlis Zariņš being one of them. There were people who, having walked down their ‘via dolorosa’, returned to Latvia, told their story through diaries and memoirs, fought for the Latvian state also during German occupation, the way Ludvigs Sēja did in his capacity of Secretary General of the Latvian Central Council, and was persecuted by two regimes – those of Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. Not only did Sēja bring his contribution to the Latvian diplomatic service by achieving the United States decision on the recognition of Latvia and by advancing the Baltic Entente; he also kept a high profile of Latvian diplomacy in the occupied Latvia. This provides us with a fresh perspective of our diplomacy, of our people, said Edgars Rinkēvičs.
The Minister continued emphasising that the book is undeniably imbued with the author’s deep anguish about the lost statehood. Meanwhile, it becomes clear how, even in a deadlock situation, Ludvigs Sēja – former Foreign Minister and diplomat –fought for the restoration of the Latvian state in the ranks of the Latvian Central Council, when hardly anybody thought it possible. He suffered for it, and he narrated about his experiences both in the Soviet and Nazi prison camps – in the hope that somebody will read it someday.
More than 50 years have passed since the outstanding diplomat’s death, and we are being given an opportunity to have an insight into his legacy, said Minister Rinkēvičs in conclusion and offered thanks to everybody who contributed to the publication – the publishing house and historian Uldis Neiburgs.
The author of the idea, a researcher at the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, Dr. hist. Uldis Neiburgs, emphasised in his address that it would not have been possible to produce a book about the notable Latvian patriot, Ambassador and diplomat without support from his family members who, over all these years, preserved the legacy of his life and work, which have now been handed over to the Occupation Museum.
Renāte Neimane, editor of the Lauku Avīze publishers, guided the audience through the key stages in the book publishing process.
Back-to-back with the book launch, an exhibition “Ludvigs Sēja – a Diplomat and Foreign Minister Persecuted by Totalitarian Regimes” was unveiled, jointly arranged by the Foreign Ministry and the Museum of Occupation. The photographs and documents on display mainly come from Ludvigs Sēja’s personal archives that have been kept by his relatives, the Kalniņš family, for several decades.
The exhibition also includes documents from the Foreign Ministry’s archives and the Latvian State Historical Archives of the National Archives of Latvia.
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