Elizabeth Wood: I'm Elizabeth Wood, and this is the Gender, Socialism and Post-Socialism Seminar. My co-conspirators and comrades, Rochelle Ruthchild, and it is my great pleasure to introduce Mara Lazda, who is Associate Professor of History at Bronx Community College and has her PhD from Indiana in 2005. She's got already a number of articles in nationalities papers, in the volume called Women and Men at War, in the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society. And today she's going to talk to us about Walls Do Talk: Gendered Spaces and Socialist and Post-Socialism in Latvia.
Mara Lazda: Thank you.
Elizabeth Wood: Thank you for coming, Mara.
Mara Lazda: So, my presentation today is a new project. It's a new project, so I'm taking very seriously the focus of this group as a working group, and so I very much welcome your feedback. Because right now where I am is, I'm in the middle, and I'm wondering what to do and how to do it. So, I'm going to experiment with some of these ideas.
Mara Lazda: So, it's based on Project Home. It's an oral history collection, housed at the National Oral History Project at the University of Latvia, at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, in Riga. And the National Oral History Project itself has existed since 1992, so it very much came out of this post-Soviet, post-socialist drive to record stories, and to reshape history.
Mara Lazda: So, similarly, to the Russian word "dom," "maja" can refer to both home and building, right? This is also something scholars such as Lynne Attwood, have pointed out. So, Latvian, like Russian, does not have a distinct word for home.
Mara Lazda: The home as a building itself does not stand out as a particular object of interest, with a particular history, in contrast to, say, [Yuri Slezkine's 00:02:11] impressive massive study of the House of Government, that tells a story of an apartment building that is impressive in many ways, including the stories of the high party officials, and their fates, as well as the structure of the building itself.
Mara Lazda: This home was selected as a result of an open call the NOH sent out, because they were interested in telling the stories connected to a place of residence. [Līvija Volkova 00:02:37], we see seated in the white and the plaid, the daughter of one of the original founders, who herself is one of the co-owners of the building today, offered her home as an object of study, and she herself is a well-known literary scholar, which contributed to her interest to be part of the project.
Mara Lazda: So, this is a collaborative project. I'm working most closely with [Māra Zirnīte 00:03:04], the director of NOH, as well as Dr. [Maruta Pranka 00:03:08], and Ginta Elksne, who are both sociologists and leading authors.
Mara Lazda: NOH researchers and affiliates initially conducted interviews in 1996. Since this time, NOH has returned to speak with the residents several times, in '99, 2005, and then, pretty intermittently, until we all returned, and I joined them, as well, in January of 2019.
Mara Lazda: So a few words, still, on the sources and methodology. In total, 18 residents of the apartment building, some more than once. I did not participate in the original recording of the interviews, though I have examined the interviews for other projects. And that's really what also drew me to this project, is that there hasn't been a thorough analysis of the collection as a whole.
Mara Lazda: People have used it kind of piecemeal, they've published [proceedings 00:04:09]. But I've been intrigued by this collection for a long time. And at the same time, I recognize, both due to my own intent to participate in the first collection, but there's... Even though there are rich sources, there are many gaps.
Mara Lazda: The methodology the Oral History Project uses is primarily the life story method, which means that there isn't a set questionnaire. It's really, there's some guiding questions, but it's really driven with the idea of having the interviewee set the narration, and really tell the story. So, the [agenda 00:04:52] and the questions are really determined by the particular interaction of those particular people at the particular time.
Mara Lazda: So one of my tasks, and coming onto the project as a historian, is, and I'm still doing this, is to complete the archival work, to provide context for some of these narratives. But again, despite these current gaps, I believe this collection has much to offer, both to the history of housing in the Baltic States, and socialism and post-socialism, as a region on the periphery of the Soviet Union, and to the scholarship, and every day life and socialism, and post-socialism.
Mara Lazda: To be sure, there is a great deal of scholarship already on housing under socialism and post-socialism, material culture, especially in the Soviet Union, that provides important context for this case study, and informs my approach. So Lynne Attwood's work most directly informs this study. Her 2010 book, Gender and Housing in Soviet Russia, in which she examines the politics and ideology behind the structure and policies of housing.
Mara Lazda: So central in her discussion is how every day life was gendered. And in so doing, looking at the centrality, the particular role that every day life played in Soviet ideology, is something they're going, we have to restructure every day life, in accord with Soviet goals.
Mara Lazda: But I'm also, I find particularly useful, is the concept of privacy, and as delineated both by Kharkhordin, and Field, as these two different components of privacy, of [chastnaia zhizn 00:06:49], connected to private property, and [lichnaia zhizn 00:06:54], intimate relationships. And really, what Kharkhordin argues is that the Soviet ideology and goals were to do away with, and refigure, the [chastnaia zhizn00:07:12], and focus more on, and use intimate relationships, as a way to promote Soviet ideology.
Mara Lazda: So all this is to say, what I'm trying to apply to this case study, is really this multilayered sense of intimacy, of gender, and of privacy. And in particular look at how residents of the house themselves used the house to negotiate these different kinds of definitions.
Mara Lazda: Okay, the second framework that I aim to use in this analysis is one introduced by [Epp Annus 00:07:57], in her recent work on Soviet post-coloniality, where she argues that home is a colonial space. And I think that's also why I'm particularly interested in looking at housing outside of the Soviet Union, of Soviet Russia proper, and looking at, kind of the Western border lands, as it were.
Mara Lazda: In her work, Annus herself builds on the work of Homi Bhabha, and in this conceptualization of home as colonial space, in other words, the most intimate space of the home becomes foreign, and an outside space, bringing what she calls exteriority, or alterity, into the domestic. The colonization of the home made intimate space vulnerable, threatening the very existence of intimacy. And so, this also may be linked back to this whole idea of intimate relationships and privacy.
Mara Lazda: At the same time, the home also retained its intimacy, through deliberate acts of every day life, through which individuals could create alternative relationships, not just in their home, but to their home. And I'll both provide examples from that, from these narrative accounts, to illustrate this.
Mara Lazda: Annus's post-colonial analysis itself of Soviet rule, in the Baltic States, is informed by the work of political theorist Iris Marion Young. I don't know how many of you are familiar with her. And in particular, in her 2001 essay, where she discusses "house and home, feminist variations of a theme," she conceives of the home as the materialization of identity.
Mara Lazda: Yet she writes, "It is not, the materialization of identity does not fix identity, but anchors it in physical being that makes continuity between past and present. Without such anchoring of ourselves, we are literally lost."
Mara Lazda: So Annus takes these ideas of alterity, and materialization of identity, to sketch out a Baltic landscape of the home under Soviet rule, primarily, but not only, through an examination of cultural visions of home life, in fiction and personal narratives. So in my project, I'm interested in applying this idea of home as materialization of identities, under socialism and post-socialism, with a stronger focus on the idea of physicality, of the home, of the building and the space.
Mara Lazda: And that's where I was sort of inspired, or thought about the walls talking. I don't know, titles are not my strong point. But really looking at the building itself, and this particular building. And that's, I mean, I think [Slezkine's 00:10:58] work is an exception. But most of the other scholarship look at, yeah, what's going on within the apartments, within the buildings. And I'm interested also in how that interacts with the actual walls, most definitely.
Mara Lazda: So, I'm going to present some of these ideas in three parts. First, I'm going to lay out the history of the building, in its physical space. Again, one of the reasons I decided to title it, is to look at the walls of the building as something that has their own, that have their own story to tell.
Mara Lazda: Then I'm going to focus on the interviews with the two central narrators, with Līvija and Valda, and trace how their relationships to the materiality and the physicality of the home played out in very different ways, both during socialism and post-socialism, and also, how it continues to shape their identities, and their families. And then, finally, I will look a little bit at some of the interviews of the other residents, and reflect on the other scholarship that has looked at the interactions that happened in these homes.
Mara Lazda: Okay, so, yes. And then, these two of our central narrators. I'll return to them in just a minute. But I was doing, how to fix who we're talking about. Valda has passed, since has died since the project has begun. But Livija is still very much with us, and very much interested in the project, at the age of 89. And I'll return to them.
Mara Lazda: So about the house. So, built in 1930, the building's life both reflects and is shaped by the political, social and economic developments of the surrounding neighborhood in the Latvian state. The house is [Šarlotes 00:12:53] Street No. 5. In the 1930s, it was still, it was located in a still developing part of Riga, considered on the outskirts of the city, Zone Three.
Mara Lazda: But within a few years it was included in the Central Zone. Zone One. And its location quickly became ever more desirable, as the city expanded. Today's neighbors include a market, several shopping areas, and a restaurant, a hospital and one of the main theaters in Riga, the Dailes Theater, and perhaps, most importantly, and the pride of the neighborhood, is the newly renovated French Lycee, which was constructed in 1930, came under Soviet administration organizations during the Soviet Union, and then has been renovated last year.
Mara Lazda: But now, to just to get to the sense, I don't know, has anybody been to Riga? Yeah? I mean, so this is, I mean, this is the old city, and up here is, is where SŠarlotes is. So, I mean, it's pretty walkable. It's considered a central region, although it wasn't originally. And this is the image of the Lycee, which, you can tell, is an architectural point of pride.
Mara Lazda: And also, it's also part of a larger narrative, of reclaiming space, okay, and identity of the neighborhood. So Sarlotes Five was built by two young men, who I will call John, Livija father, and Peter, Valda's father, who saw the apartment building both as a home for their young families, and as an investment in the future, and, as the daughters found out afterwards, took out very large mortgages.
Mara Lazda: Construction began in the 1930s. People first started living there in 1936. The building has. . .Oh, here's an architect's sketch from 1930. The building has 19 apartments and 57 rooms. The owners also planned to build a store. But World War II, in 1939, and the arrival of Soviet occupation, shut down, the end of the independence of a Latvian state, and shut down the owners' intentions.
Mara Lazda: So with that, the first intrusion of international politics came in 1939. With Hitler's call to repatriate Germans, at least three Baltic German families left, in responses to his call.
Mara Lazda: During the first Soviet occupation, Sarlotes iela was nationalized, and management came under Soviet occupation administration, though there wasn't, physically to the building, there was not, not too much done at this point. The original owners, though, John and Peter, were arrested, deported and died during the war.
Mara Lazda: In 1941, Nazi occupation forces pushed out the Soviet, bringing a new period of repression, but there were no further significant changes in the home. According to Valda and Livijaa, and certainly, we can discuss this in the Q&A, about the problems of memory, there were no, according to them, there were no Jewish families in the building. Though they did have positive memories of playing with Jewish children in the neighborhood, and Jewish schoolmates, in, at the Lycee.
Mara Lazda: Lvijaa recalls that the Germans came to the home, to identify space for quartering military personnel, but the only person they assigned to come live with them was a Latvian military officer, with whom, she reports, they got along well. The Nazi efforts to, [inaudible 00:16:52] were slow to reprivatize, although that was something that the Latvians expected.
Mara Lazda: But they did reprivatize in 1943, which was very soon thereafter followed by conscription of young men into the military. So it was seen as a, it's part of a propagandistic tool. And Livija, in fact, who was 12 at the time, recalls that reprivatization, she says she recalls, took place with great fanfare.
Mara Lazda: At the end of the war, when Soviet forces returned, the building was again renationalized by the Soviet regime. The immediate postwar period was one of chaos. According to the Home Registry from 1945, the home served as short-term housing for over 100 individuals, for a short-term period. So anywhere from a couple of months, to about five years is about the longest that I saw. The Registry includes persons designated as secret police, as well as those demobilized fromm the front, both men and women, as well as, distinguishes between their, in their nationalities, is to emphasizing that there were quite, there were Ukrainians, Russians, Poles, and Jews.
Elizabeth Wood: How many rooms were there?
Mara Lazda: There were 18 apartments, [inaudible 00:18:14], yeah.
Elizabeth Wood: Eighteen apartments?
Mara Lazda: Yeah, in the 19... So, I mean, there's not 100 at one time. [crosstalk 00:18:22] But yeah, going in and out, yeah. Going in and out. I mean, some of them were very short periods of time.
Mara Lazda: In the 1950s and '60s, the physical building, a division among the walls was stabilized, and several apartments became communal apartments. So this is a rendition by the NOH. So, Apartments Eight and Apartments 11, were five-bedroom, five-room apartments. And those were the owners' apartments. So what you see here is that, is this color, the... Was that taupe? I said it was taupe.
Mara Lazda: Those are the communal apartments, that were created, and so, this is, this scheme, schematic, is made in 1997. The numbers in, the lighter numbers, are the numbers of residents in 1997. The numbers in the darker boxes are the residents in 1945.
Mara Lazda: What was that I said? Okay. Now, as far... Yeah, again, it's relatively stable, as far as organizational structure, till 1991. Latvia regains its independence in 1990, in May 1991. The declaration of denationalization was issued shortly thereafter, and the daughters of the original owners, Valda and Livija, received approval for privatization in 1992, and officially became owners in 1995. And it remains in their hands.
Mara Lazda: It remains in their hands. Since Valda died in 2006, her half of the building has been managed by her granddaughter. And she also said that Livija has, is not a ready landlord, and she's been selling and giving away her components, as well. So, in short, I mean, what I'll be interested to hear from you, as well, is that... I'm interested in looking at just how the physical changes themselves play a role in the residents' conceptualizations of intimacy and gender throughout this period.
Mara Lazda: But I will now turn to two of the residents themselves, going back to Valda and Livija, and their physical presence, and their relationship to the physical helm. To think about this materialization of identity in this way. For both, the home figures prominently in their memories and narratives about their childhoods, as a kind of idealized space, with carefree playing in the courtyard of neighborhood kids.
Mara Lazda: The Soviet occupation and war, as these events appear in their narratives, shatter their idealized worlds. The coming of war, for Valda, meant physical separation from her home, as her family's presence was practically erased. As I mentioned, her father was arrested first, in 1940, in part because he was co-owner of the building. But his larger crime was that he worked for the Latvian government. Soon after his arrest, he was shot and killed.
Mara Lazda: Peter's wife, who had been, was married... So Valda's mother, as married to an enemy to the people, was removed from her position as a house manager, from a different apartment building, and she ends up taking a factory job to provide for her children. The deportations on June 14, of 14,000 citizens of Latvia, of several nationalities, including Latvians, Russians and Jews, and a few Germans were deported, also struck these two families.
Mara Lazda: Valda, who was 15 at the time, is deported to Siberia, along with her two brothers and mother. Her mother dies in exile in 1943. One family member from Valda's family does remain in the building. Her grandmother is able to stay until 1947, when she dies.
Mara Lazda: So Valda and her brothers return to Latvia in 1945, after the war, to their apartment. Valda, in the meantime, had married a Ukrainian, and she has a son. But in 1949, Valda and her brothers are deported again, which is really the final step in erasing their presence in the home.
Mara Lazda: Valda returns to Latvia in 1957, under a general amnesty, but she is not allowed to go back to the home, and instead, spends the rest of... Until 1993, lives outside of Riga, in the costal, in [Jūrmala 00:23:30], near the sea. So Valda, therefore, is not able to create, have a materialization of identity in her home.
Mara Lazda: Yet physicality remains important throughout her life. It offers her hope, and she recalls how she would bring both her son and her goddaughter, take a train to her neighborhood, go to the building, say, "We cannot go in, but this is ours. Never forget this."
Mara Lazda: Līvija, by contrast, remained in the home throughout the socialist and post-socialist period. In 1941, Līvija's father, John, and her mother, are deported on June 14, along the same deportations. But 10-year-old Līvija is spared, because her grandmother and her parents convince the handlers that, because she was ill, she should stay behind with her grandmother. Līvija's father dies in 1943.
Mara Lazda: So, for Livija's life story, the materiality, the physicality of the home becomes central to her identity, both as a source of security, and a source of vulnerability. To use Epp Annus's terms, both a source of intimacy, which provides strength, as well as an otherness, which exposes vulnerability.
Mara Lazda: Līvijia describes the war years themselves in little detail. The most vivid memories of her first few postwar years center on what is left of the apartment furnishings and other items, which feeds her and her grandmother, as she sells off what she can in the local market. She recalls the episode with a sense of adventure. Can you imagine, she was born in 1930, so she's a young teen, operating clandestinely in the postwar instability.
Mara Lazda: Līvija's family's original five-room apartment becomes a communal apartment. However, for the first several years, she and her grandmother were able to fill the required residency quota with their own relatives or acquaintances, which is also a pattern you see throughout the region, becoming a family communal apartment. Līvija's mother escapes exile back to Riga in 1947, and spends the next few years, hiding in several locations, including in the original apartment, which has become a communal apartment at this point.
Mara Lazda: After Stalin's death in 1953, her mother manages to buy a passport, using her middle name, which allows her to make a living, doing various jobs. However, according to Līvija, her mother never fully adjusted to her return. The intimacy of the home, for Līvija's mother, was less a safe haven, than a constant source of vulnerability that could rise to the surface.
Mara Lazda: Especially for the first five years, every longer ring of the doorbell, which was an indication of an outsider, sent Līvija and her mother into position, with her mother hiding in the back room, and Līvija preparing her face of denial, should the person at the door ask about her mother's whereabouts. And Līvija herself was called out several times, to talk to the police about her mother.
Mara Lazda: Further, just because, and this is where I think I'm interested in the multi layers of familiar relationships, just because they managed to create a family, a so-called family communal apartment, this does not necessarily insulate Līvijia and her mother from the outside. Livijarecalled, where she said, was a problematic aunt, who professed to Līvija that she is a true Christian, the aunt is a true Christian. And, as a true Christian, her aunt could not lie to Soviet authorities, if they asked her about Līvija mother hiding in the apartment.
Mara Lazda: So, she told a 17-year-old Līvija, don't count on her to participate in the deception. So, Līvija suspects, this living in the shadows contributed to her mother's stroke and death in 1968. Home was familiar, it was intimate, but it did not provide security. In several interviews, Līvija, and that... But yet, right, but yet, she's returning to the same home. So it's, that particular home, that particular building, that provides some sense of home and familiarity.
Mara Lazda: In several interviews, Līvija stresses that, "My mother always said, it was not her exile in Serbia that did her in, but rather, those years of hiding in Latvia, in the home." So through the Soviet period, Līvija lived in one room of her family's original five-room apartment. She has continued to live in one room until last year, even though she's gained possession of the entire apartment, when the 89-year-old decided that she needs a room to do her exercises. So now she has two rooms.
Mara Lazda: For Līvija, perhaps precisely because she's remained in the building, or perhaps, simply because of her lack of interest in, as she puts it, being a landlord, she seems to attach less meaning to the building ownership itself, than to significant objects and actual components of the building. So though she, again, stays in that one room, and says she doesn't need much more than that, she has kept original items from her parents' time. And these items have maintained a presence throughout, even in the rooms in which she is not occupying.
Mara Lazda: So she has kept her father's heavy study table, which is what she's sitting at there. I mean, this is a picture taken from several years ago. A mirror, a lamp, a bookcase. She also kept the glass door from her father's legal office, although it was stored with a friend.
Mara Lazda: She said, of restoring the home, "Now I have this apartment, and also another one. The rest of the property, I gave as a gift and sold. I wasn't thinking about doing anything with the house, because neither I have any interest, or no calling, or abilities. Also, I understand your management is not that great, so that I could deal with the matters regarding the house, managing it, the like. But since Valda, the other co-owner, proposed it at all, and took care of it, then I agreed."
Mara Lazda: So in the end, this is not really her initiative, but it does complete the loop, as you say, and she's able to regain what her father had hoped. And in addition, there's a sign of the families' hope, and the families clinging to this property itself.
Mara Lazda: As Līvija recalls, her grandmother kept the documents of the house in the closet, through the entire Soviet period, and she recalls laughing, leafing through them and laughing, because she thought these documents were kind of a joke. But she says that, clearly her grandmother thought, at some point, that returning might be, may be possible.
Mara Lazda: For Valda, by contrast, who visited the building regularly throughout the socialist period, she kept reminding herself of the physical presence of the home, and of her. For Valda, reclaiming the home was a necessary step for restorative justice. And this is really something on the topic of reprivatization, as it affects the home, in particular, is something that my colleague,Ginta Elksne, Nazarin 00:31:44], written about.
Mara Lazda: But she notes how, for Valda, she makes this connection. She makes this a connection to a lost dream for her father. "It was very hard for my father to pay for the house, and Father's building the house, so that the children and children's children could live there. That's why it was so painful for me to come back from Siberia, and not have a place to stay." And by that, she did have a place to stay, but it's not home.
Mara Lazda: "And it was painful, because Father had built the house for us, but I could only enter it, after taking a long detour." And here she is pictured. So, increasingly, as she got older, she handed over the management to her granddaughter. But I should note their granddaughter has not agreed to interviews. That's something that we're still, we hope to accomplish.
Mara Lazda: And when she moves, when Valda moves back to the neighborhood, she really reflects and identifies, this is an important step in, despite the fact that she was returned in 1957, it's really only at this point that she reclaimed her neighborhood, and has, really feels that she's returned, right? "That, in the morning, I take the dog for a walk, and then I walk around here, and go walk in that square over there. Then I feel, yes, indeed, I have returned. I feel very happy here." So that's an important point, to feel integrated into the neighborhood.
Mara Lazda: So what I find really fascinating about this project is not just... I mean, on one hand, you could look at that, the home, as a microcosm or a micro history of the national history, of the fate of the Latvian state and its people. But rather, I think I'm interested, really, in the interactions within the building itself.
Mara Lazda: And if we look to, so the final part, and I've had it to conclude, I want to give you some sense of how the other residents, who don't have this long history with the building, how they reflect on their relationships to others, and their relationship to the home itself. Now here, what we see, some of the stories that we get from the home, with other residents.
Mara Lazda: Yeah, they almost copy, or they're so similar to the ones that have been recorded by Paola Messana 00:34:38], or that others who have looked at, or looking at Lynne Attwood... I mean, for example, it seems that every communal apartment has the resident drunk, who in the best case is, is a nuisance, in the worst case, is a threat. Project Home is no exception to this.
Mara Lazda: Furthermore, the house manager, who oversees the building, there's one of those in every story, and everyone assumes that he or she is reporting to authorities. And many times, it is a she, and we did interview one of these managers, and she confirmed her role as an informer. She says, "Every time a car honked, I ran to the window. I said, 'Who has come? Who is he or she visiting?' Because I was always later asked by the police, 'When did the car come? How many people came?' And we had to know everything."
Mara Lazda: So, in many ways, the interviews fit a familiar pattern. But at the same time, and going back to Annus's conceptualization of the home as kind of a colonial imposition, when restructured by the Soviet regime, we also see some evidence of that with interviews from, with other residents.
Mara Lazda: For example, one resident, Maija Pastore 00:36:16], who lived in a communal apartment, and she actually came to this communal apartment after 1991. But the physicality of the building itself meant that she had to live with a man, with an older man, and in the balance of the space, is something that we also read in other accounts.
Mara Lazda: But she reflects that, and she's always aware of this male neighbor. "We try to avoid each other," she says. "I don't go into the kitchen when he goes in the kitchen. But even more importantly, he, when we do greet each other, he constantly reminds me that he is, he says, hozyanlanguage 00:37:01], that I am always the landlord, right? I am always the, I am the keeper."
Mara Lazda: So there's kind of a hierarchy, not only in how the building itself is structured, but also in gender relations. Which she feels, not only in her interactions with him, but how she's constantly aware of her own dress, how she said, "I can't leave my room without being properly dressed, I am always, I'm..." And that is truly, she feels, is an imposition on her own intimate space, as well as on her own freedom.
Mara Lazda: Okay, so I'm happy to talk to more about some of these additional examples. But the question, the thing I want to conclude with here, and I'm open to discussion, is... And I'm interested in hearing from you. Is it worth doing yet another study on housing under socialism?
Mara Lazda: I hope that I've presented, brought some ways that it is, and in particular, I think what the Baltic case provides, and what this particular Baltic case provides, in this particular home, is both a sense that, of looking at these structures, at these, this restructuring of the home, the restructuring of the relationships, really comes from an external power, and as Annus suggests, helps us think about the Soviet experience of housing as a colonial and a post-colonial one.
Mara Lazda: And the second kind of step, that I would like to take in this project, is that, I mean, as you see, these are the most recent images of the neighborhood, is that the evolution of the development of the building and the relationships, is following into the post-socialist developments, as well. Specifically thinking about where... And during the socialist period, residents were being deported, now there are residents who are leaving, right? They're leaving as part of the migration.
Mara Lazda: And so, the lives of the families, the lives of intimacy, and the lives of the home itself, continues to evolve, and to evolve into the post-socialist circumstances. Thank you.
Elizabeth Wood: Very good. I can start with a question. I found this fascinating. I think, so my vote? Definitely worth it. I love stories that open up time periods, and I think, sometimes, that's very important, especially for Westerners. For Latvians, this may be a familiar story, but I think for Westerners, you'd, people would find it really interesting.
Elizabeth Wood: I'm curious about Līvija's mother's coming back, and whether there's even more to tell. What I hear is that the space becomes imbued with what almost sounds like PTSD, like, she's got this stress, she comes back, it's, they have to constantly hide.
Elizabeth Wood: And I wondered whether there's more to say about the reversal of the mothering role, so that the daughter has to take care of her mother, the daughter has to hide her mother, the mother can't be a mother. And I don't know much about Latvian society, but my guess would be, that that she was denied the chance to mother the daughter, when she was in Siberia.
Elizabeth Wood: Then she comes back, and she still can't, really, because it sounds like, could she go shopping? Could she lead a full life? I'd be, I just think it would be really interesting to tease out.
Elizabeth Wood: And then, the alternate experience of Valda is that, it sounds like, she has a child. Well, she must have had a child, because she has a grandchild, so how does that... And yet, I was curious whether, when she comes back to the house to look at it, do she and Līvija stay in touch, or does she just look at it from the outside? Is there an interiority already there?
Elizabeth Wood: But anyway, I just kept finding more questions that I would love to hear about it, and it's not... It's wonderful what you've done, so it's not a criticism, it's a-
Mara Lazda: No, no, that's it.
Elizabeth Wood: Keep going, there's more, that it sounds like there's a lot... Those are just a couple questions that came to my mind.
Mara Lazda: No, thank you. I mean, that's a great point, yeah. I mean, I think definitely, Līvija feels... I mean, not only, I think, a mother, maybe, to her mother. I mean, there's definitely, there is in the same way, but also a mother to others in the apartment. And that, I think, she continues to play.
Mara Lazda: I mean, just in the sense of, yeah, maybe as a provider. In the sense of, I mean, she does give away some of these apartments as a giveaway, but she sees that as a family structure for her. Yeah, I mean, but that's good. But I shall look more into that.
Mara Lazda: You said, with Valda, yeah, they have a tense relationship, but I haven't fully... That they acknowledge, but they don't... I mean, now she's dead. But they have a tense, they had a tense relationship. It was kind of a business relationship. And it was also, if we asked about the other landlord to the other side, she would just say, "Well, that's the other side."
Mara Lazda: I don't know. So yeah, there isn't a lot of contact. I mean, it is kind of a relationship... And they don't even really know if their fathers were friends. They have very similar histories in there. Their fathers are also very interesting, in the sense that they're not really, I think, typical Latvian, in the sense that they come from the Orthodox part of Latvia, and they come, and-
Elizabeth Wood: They do come through, right?
Mara Lazda: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And they come from the Orthodox part, and from that, enables all kinds of, but they say that they... And they ended up in the Orthodox school, and their daughter surmised, that's how they got to know each other, and that's how they decide-
Elizabeth Wood: Are those their real names you've used?
Mara Lazda: No.
Elizabeth Wood: And-
Mara Lazda: Līvija is real, because she's very public about... She talks about it, she's very [inaudible 00:43:12], yeah, yeah.
Elizabeth Wood: But Valda didn't want to talk about her father, or didn't want you to use the father's name, you think?
Mara Lazda: No. Well, okay, the reason I changed his name, is that they're both named the same thing.
Elizabeth Wood: Oh.
Mara Lazda: And I just thought that was too confusing for a presentation.
Elizabeth Wood: Oh. [inaudible 00:43:24].
Mara Lazda: That's also why. They're both named Jānis, that's why it was... That's, yeah.
Elizabeth Wood: Okay. So Mara, again, thank you so much for coming.
Mara Lazda: Oh well, thank you.
Elizabeth Wood: Thank you for this great talk.