Book Launch

Rīgā, 18th July 2014 Book launch photos | Rīga Book launch article by Līga Strazda

Sydney, 21st September 2014 Book launch photos | Sydney book launch article by Juris Krādziņš

Lidija reads part of her story (in Latvian)

Rīgā, 18th July 2014 at the Museum of Occupation

The book was launched by Mr Aldis Birzulis, the Honorary Consul for Latvia in Sydney (seated front row).

Next to Mr Birzulis is Edīte Birzulis. Second row, second from left: Jānis Dimitrijevs, Chairman of the Viesīte local council; third row: Gunārs Spīdainis, Viesīte Museum acting director, Anita Liberte, Indulis Liepiņš, Ingrīda Meierovica; fourth row: Elma Rudzīte, Astrīda Briede.

Photo: Latvian Museum of Occupation, Aivars Reinholds

Front row from left: Astrīda Medne, 3. Pēteris Medenis, 4. Osvalds Aizstrauts; second row: 1. Aldis Birzulis, 2. Edīte Birzule; 3. Ivars Apelis 4. Maruta Bukleviča.

Photo: Latvian Museum of Occupation, Aivars Reinholds

Dr. Gunārs Nāgels, Director of the Latvian Museum of Occupation

Photo: Latvian Museum of Occupation, Aivars Reinholds

Guntis Bērziņs and in the background Agnese Skara.

Photo: Latvian Museum of Occupation, Aivars Reinholds

Lidija's daughter, Astrīda Medne and in the background Agnese Skara.

Photo: Latvian Museum of Occupation, Aivars Reinholds

Photo: Latvian Museum of Occupation, Aivars Reinholds

Astrīda Medne, Anita Liberte and Ilga Bīskaps.

Photo: Latvian Museum of Occupation, Aivars Reinholds


A book about Lidija Mednis life
The book launch at Latvia’s Occupation Museum

By Līga Strazda

Published in the Latvian online weekly "Latvietis" Nr. 320, 3 August 2014

On the hot afternoon of 18 July, about 40 guests were gathered in the function room of the Occupation Museum of Latvia to take part in the launch of the book by an Australian Latvian, Lidija Mednis — “Song birds swept away in the wind”. The book had been brought over from Australia to Latvia — Lidija’s homeland — so it could be launched to commence its journey from bookshops to the minds and hearts of readers. This was being taken care of by one of Lidija’s daughters, Astrīda Mednis.

Astrīda remembers about the launch: “It really was very touching that there were so many people present who had been connected to different phases of Lidija’s life; for example, the daughter (Anita Liberte) of a childhood friend, Ģertrūde Godiņa, from Viesīte. Also from Viesīte had arrived the Chairman of the District Council of Viesīte —Jānis Dimitrijevs —and acting Chairman of the Museum of Viesīte, Gunārs Spīdainis.

The daughter and grand-daughter of Mintauts Jakstiņš, one of Lidija’s childhood friends from high school days and farm life at Daneļi, were also present. So was Astrīda Briede, who had spent many wonderful times with Lidija, when both were at high school and worked and lived in the country-side — in the Kursīšu region at the farm estates Daneļi and Jumpravieši. Astrīda Briede now lives in Venezuela, but was visiting Latvia at the time of the launch. Close relatives, friends and their children from days gone by during exile in Germany and also life in Australia were also present.

The book was launched by the Honorary Consul for Latvia in New South Wales, Australia, Aldis Birzulis, with kind words, loving humour and memories of shared life in Germany as well as later, looking after Latvian community life in Australia.

He was followed by, Guntis Bērziņš, the son Lūcija and Arvīds Bērziņi and a former Member of the Latvian Parliament (Saeima). With great sincerity, he movingly recounted in detail the event from Lidija’s book which had touched him the most — about the fateful coincidence in October 1944, when Lidija’s mother, Anna Krēle, had to remain in Latvia with the children from the Orphanage, where she was Director.

It had previously been arranged that she, along with the orphanage children, was also to flee; however, the transport never arrived at the Orphanage, and the children remained in Latvia. Lidija travelled alone [without her mother] on the train where she and her mother had previously arranged to meet.

Anna Krēle felt responsible and sacrificed herself, so the children would not remain entirely alone. At this time, everyone was fleeing, including all the Orphanage staff. Guntis made a concise and respectful assessment of Lidija as a woman of strong character. Lidija’s daughter also confirmed that Guntis’ mother, Lūcija Bērziņa, had been Lidija’s mentor since Germany, when Lidija with others had founded the sorority Zinta in Pinneberg.
Among those present at the launch were Latvian friends along with fraternity and sorority members who were visiting Latvia or who had returned to Latvia to live, including the Medenis and Aizstrauts families.

Student academic organisations’ representatives included the sorority Spīdola and Zinta, and the fraternity Cursica.”

There were also other guests who had arrived and who were interested in new books and events at the Museum.

Gunārs Nāgels, the Director of the Museum, started the book launch with sincerity and respect. Then the guests listened to a short recording which had initially been prepared by Vita Kristovska in a radio studio, and selected excerpts from which were played by Lelde Neimane and Līga Strazda. Lidija was reading from her memoirs of her childhood and youth days in Viesīte. She particularly mentioned her wonderful and loving memories of the people from Viesīte such as the industrious, generous and well-known Latvian Stradiņu family and other friends. During the sound recording, photographs from the book were screened by Museum staff member Agnese Skara.

It was a blessing that people were able to come together for the book launch at the Occupation Museum. After the speeches, the guests had the opportunity to pass time over a glass of wine and snacks, sharing memories from days past with joy or sorrow.
We from the Occupation Museum had the pleasure to help Astrīda Mednis organise the book launch. Until the end of summer, it will be possible to buy the book at the Museum’s bookshop at Strēlnieku laukumā 1 and from autumn on, at the Museum's temporary premises at Raiņa bulvārī 7. Later on, it will be possible to purchase the book from the Museum’s internet shop.

Līga Strazda
Latvia’s Occupation Museum / Public Relations specialist



Sydney, 21st September 2014 at Sydney Latvian House, Strathfield

Some of the book launch and art exhibition contributors and presenters, and book publication contributors who were present at the 21st September book launch in Sydney.

Front row (left to right) Aivars Mednis, Julia Rush, Andrejs Mednis, Astrīda Medne, Elga Rush; back row (left to right) Gundega Zariņa, Vija Zara, Vija Sieriņa, Aldis Birzulis, Biruta Apene-Clark, Baiba Bērziņa, Edīte Birzule.

Photo: Viktorija Macens

Book launch and art exhibition – some of the guests
Front (from left to right) Pēteris Bračs, Elanor Cope; middle (from left to right) Lauma Reinfelde, Mrs Krūmiņa; back (from left to right) Mr Reinfeldis, Margita Baltgaile, Ināra Gedgovds, Warren Cope, Ingrīda Mitchell, Oļğerts Kraulis, Astrīda Lodena.

Photo: Viktorija Macens


Lidija Mednis book and art exhibition

Juris Krādziņš, Sydney

Published in the Sydney Latvian Society monthly news "Ritums", October 2014, and the weekly newspaper "Austrālijas Latvietis" (The Australian Latvian), 15 October 2014.

The launch of Lidija Mednis’ book of memoirs “Song birds swept away in the wind” and a viewing of some of her art works took place on 21 September 2014 at 11 am at the Sydney Latvian House “White [Function] Room”.

Biruta Clark, vice-president of the Australian Latvian Art Society (ALMA) opened the art exhibition. In welcoming, and her address to, the guests she mentioned Lidija Mednis’ generous nature and calm and friendly smile. Today we are gathered here in the “White Room”, and it’s worth mentioning that it was Lidija Mednis who gave that name to it. When a name for this room was sought, she proposed this name, and it was accepted straight away.

And although for her as a mother, her family came first, her passions were the sorority Zinta and the art association, ALMA (the Latvian mixed choir should also be mentioned here). Lidija was a founding member of both of these organisations, and in ALMA she was president and vice president. This is a special day for Lidija, as we see here some of her paintings (40 works) and ceramics (8 works); the main purpose for our gathering, however, is to launch a new and hitherto unknown book. The book has been published in both English and Latvian – the English translation having been done by her daughter, Astrīda, and Vija Sieriņa. The Honorary Consul for Latvia, Mr Aldis Birzulis, was invited to launch the book as the next speaker.

Aldis Birzulis told the audience he had read the book twice. In Germany he had been in the same camp with Lidija Mednis, and in the same barrack as her father. Whether through relationship or by coincidence, both he and Lidija through their grandmothers have the surname Ansons. [Lidija’s paternal grandmother was nee Ansons]. Aldis recounted three excerpts from the book: the first one being about the insubstantial food, namely kohlrabi, in the English zone [in Germany], then work at the hospital without any complaint of hardships, and, finally, one of Lidija’s letters where she highly praises the Birzulis’ boys [Aldis and Varis, his brother], on page 120; in Aldis’ opinion, such praise was undeserved!

Lidija’s son, Andrejs was then invited to speak. He thanked Astrīda and Vija Sieriņa for their work in the production of the book. Lidija’s daughter Elga Medne [Rush] thanked the Honorary Consul and the ALMA vice president for their speeches. Then the Honorary Consul announced the playing of a record in which Lidija herself recalled the days of her childhood. [Various aspects of the technical production were worked on mainly at the outset by Vita Kristovska, and then by the Latvian Occupation Museum, Voldis Kains, Ojārs Greste and John Ulrichsen].

Gundega Zariņa, representative of the sorority Zinta [Sydney group] recalled the “Straumēni” [Latvian children’s] summer camp, where Lidija Mednis encouraged her to learn by heart the songs they sang at the camp. All the guests together then sang Lidija Mednis’ beloved song about “Vecpiebalga” [a place in Latvia]. Also Astrīda Mednis thanked all those who had made it possible for the book to come into being. Vija Sieriņa, Baiba Bērziņa and Vija Zara, from Canberra, received flowering orchid plants. Flowers were also later given to the Honorary Consul, the ALMA vice-president [and others].

Aldis Birzulis invited guests to raise their glasses of champagne to the just launched book [all drinks were kindly hosted and donated by Astrīde un Andris Zīds], and invited guests to purchase it from Lidija’s youngest grand-daughter, Julia. The guests were also treated with two krinğeļi [a celebratory Latvian birthday cake] which had been especially baked for the occasion [generously baked and donated by Māris Celinskis] and were then able to view Lidija Mednis’ paintings and ceramics. The exhibition had been organised by Astrīda Mednis together with Ojārs Greste, who had prepared the catalogue for the book launch and exhibition. [Thanks also to Pēteris Klaviņš, who printed the catalogue and song sheet for “Vecpiebalga” and also to the Sydney Latvian Society].

Juris Krādziņš


© Astrīda Mednis. All Rights Reserved. Web design by Ojārs Greste