A very long, stressful, eventful, interesting, and happy journey that started in Latvia on a Friday in October came to a peaceful end on a Saturday in Canada, almost 94 years later.
Alma, the first of four children of Jānis and Ķērsta, was born on a farm in the County of Dunika, Latvia. Farm life in post-war, newly independent Latvia was not a vacation at a cottage, and particularly hard on Alma was the ongoing stress in the family of the long term caring for her younger brother Arnolds who had an incurable illness. But no matter how hard and difficult life on the farm may have been, Alma always recalled her youth, her parent’s immense efforts, and her beloved grandmother with nostalgia. However, in 1940 the world she lived in changed. The Soviet Union invaded, occupied and annexed Latvia, and what followed in Latvia is known as “The Year of Terror''- land and businesses confiscated, “disappearances,” and mass deportations of people. Then, in 1941, Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied Latvia.
On October 7, 1944 Alma turned 17 and was told she could go home to the farm near Rucava. She had spent the previous two weeks in conscripted civilian labour by the German Army, digging anti-tank trenches. She spent a day and a night getting back to her farm, arriving at noon on the 9th of October to a hive of activity - the household was packing to leave to escape the advancing Russian Army. For the rest of her life Alma would speculate: would her family have left without her had she not returned that fateful day?
Thus, in the late afternoon of October 9, 1944, a new journey for Alma began. Alma and her parents, Jānis and Ķērsta, younger sister Ausma, and younger brother Jānis left their family farm forever, with a packed horse drawn wagon and one cow. It was a 1,000 km trek across Lithuania, Poland and Germany, ending two months later in Schwerin, Germany.
After the war, almost a million refugees lived in DP (Displaced Persons) Camps under constant pressure to either resettle or return to their homelands, which for people from the Baltics was not an option. So Alma made the momentous decision to go to England, with the possibility of never seeing her family again.
In August 1947, just shy of her 20th birthday, Alma left for England, which turned out to be one of the best decisions of her life. There two people met the love of their lives - Valentīns Ivsiņš and Alma Pirktiņš danced together for the first time on 6 November 1948 and were married on 16 July 1949 - and they danced together for just shy of 70 years.
The happy journey of Vilis and Alma begins, and by 1951 they have arrived in Niagara Falls, Ontario. Through sheer hard work and determination their life improves. By 1954 they own a house, Vilis has opened his own Service Station, and soon they have two sons Edvīns (1957) and Armands (Arnie), (1960). Alma’s parents and siblings have emigrated to America, and there are visits to and from family and friends, trips to America and Quebec, and there are parties. And always hard work.
In the 1970’s their life changes once again. The family relocates to Bronte, they acquire property on Pickerel Lake, and by the 1980’s there is a cottage - Vilis’ dream of “The North” has come true.
During all the years that Alma and Vilis lived in Niagara Falls and Bronte they were very active in the Latvian Church and Community in Niagara Falls, St. Catherines and Hamilton, and Alma as a teacher at the St. Catherines Latvian School, which her sons also attended. They provided immense support to their relatives in Latvia with never ending “Care Packages” and Alma’s very entertaining correspondence. Alma organized and cooked fantastic family dinners into her 80’s.
Their journey continued. Bronte - Pickerel Lake, Pickerel Lake - Bronte, but it was becoming clear that changes had to be made, as an independent lifestyle was harder and harder to maintain. In 2015 they relocated again, this time to the Latvian Retirement Home Kristus Dārzs, where they had numerous acquaintances, regular church services with various Latvian ministers and constant visits from family and friends.
The journey stopped for one of them, when Vilis, the love of her life, died on November 7, 2018. Then came Covid, quarantines, lockdowns, isolation, loneliness. Alma had to depend on books, newspapers and her faith to sustain her, and on her family support. As the restrictions eased Armands and Linda were almost daily visitors.
Alma’s incredible journey ended peacefully on Saturday, 31 July.
Alma was predeceased by her parents Jānis (1993), Ķērsta (1979), brother Arnolds (1935) and sister Ausma (2011). She leaves behind her sons Edvīns and Armands, daughter in law Linda, brother Jānis, and numerous relatives and friends in Latvia, Canada, the USA and Australia.
Info: Due to COVID-19 room capacity restrictions, we must maintain physical distancing and face masks are required. We will be circulating guests if we reach capacity. Thank you for your understanding, kindness and support during this difficult time. Condolence messages may be conveyed through Alma Ivsins memorial page.
Info: Due to COVID-19 room capacity is restricted and by invitation only to maintain physical distancing requirements. During these times, masks are mandatory too. Thank you for your understanding, kindness and support during this difficult time. Condolence messages may be conveyed through Alma Ivsins memorial page.