The Open Suitcase Exhibit
On Sunday afternoon, April 8th, we went to "The Open Suitcase" exhibit that featured various articles, most of them now precious, that Latvians took with them when they fled their homeland during World War II after the Soviet occupation.
As we know, most of these people spent years in displaced persons camps before they were ultimately allowed to immigrate to the United States as refugees in the late 1940's and 1950's with the help of such sponsors as the National Catholic Welfare Council and the National Lutheran Council.
Two such people were Ms. Vita Reineks and Ms. Inese Abols who came to the U.S. as refugee children (with their families) in 1950 and 1951. They were the key organizers of this exhibit with help from the women's auxiliary of the Cleveland Latvian Welfare Association and further support from the Latvian Credit Union and the American Latvian Association.
This wonderful showcase took place in the hall of the United Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cleveland and featured such keepsakes as musical instruments, jewelry and items made from silver, suitcases that were used by those fleeing, documents from the displaced persons camps, a sewing machine, and the wedding clothes of both a bride and a groom.
All told, heirlooms of about 30 Latvian families were featured and we learned that it took the organizers about six months to collect the articles as well as the stories of those who donated them which are available at http://open-suitcase.com/
As a bonus, also featured was a collection of 120 dolls, hand-made by Ms. Austra Linde, clothed in reproductions of original Latvian folk costumes representing the different regions of the country.
No less impressive was a display created by Miss Krista Albertins (the granddaughter of Ms. Reineks) that offered an account, through photographs and carefully researched writings, of why the Latvians had to flee, where they initially fled to, and how some of them were permitted to come to America.
To put something like this together would be quite an undertaking, especially for a young person in her teens, so we were not surprised at all to learn that this undertaking won for Ms. Albertins the first place honor at the 2017 National History Day contest conducted at the Western Reserve Historical Society.
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC