The Museum of the Occupation of Latvia (Latvijas okupācijas muzejs)* was established in 1993 to exhibit artifacts from 1940-1991 and to educate the public about the 51-year period when Latvia was successively occupied by the USSR in 1940, by Nazi Germany in 1941, and then again by the USSR in 1944. This year marks the twentieth year the museum has been educating visitors, and we were able to attend the commemorative event marking the occasion.
All four Presidents since independence has been regained were in attendance: Guntis Ulmanis (1993-1999), Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga (1999-2007), Valdis Zatlers (2007-2011) and the current President, Andris Bērziņš.
The boys were not content to sit still, and so in between wanderings around Latviešu strēlnieku laukums we caught bits and pieces of emotional speeches from the President, the original founders of the museum, as well as other familiar faces.
After the official portion of the event we were invited in for a look at the museum, which was my first and hopefully not the last; I would like to return sans children for a closer look at the heartbreaking exhibits. My sister Anna spent a summer abroad working at the museum with a scholarship sponsored by various organizations in the US, and I contemplate whether this might have been the best way to experience the museum; it is regretful that the program did not exist when I was younger.
*The museum's stated mission (from the website) is to:-Show what happened in Latvia, its land and people under two occupying totalitarian regimes from 1940 to 1991
-Remind the world of the crimes committed by foreign powers against the state and people of Latvia
-Remember the victims of the occupation: those who perished, were persecuted, forcefully deported or fled the terror of the occupation regimes.