From the Russian border to Ventspils
Latvia, Ventspils, August 2012
At the age of 8, she already realised there where only two options. Do what all seemed to do: drink and sink back or excel at school and escape. She was born close to the border of Russia in a small village deep in the woods. Her father was “away” and her mother worked in the local shop for a meagre income. Not much had changed since the independence, Russia or Latvia only made a difference in their head, not in practical living circumstances and certainly not in mindset.
My son and I meet her during a very hot day at the bus back from the beautiful beach close to the harbour in Ventspils (formerly Windau) where she immediately made the impression of an independent strong person. Interested why we visit Ventspils she shares some of her background with us. At the time of writing, her name just does not come back to me. But her story I did not forget.
Her strategy worked for her; first, she left the secondary school with top marks and then she prepared for the admission program to join Frontex, the European border police. Apart from passing difficult theoretical entry exams admission required a heavy physical test. For this, she trained and adjusted her style of living. Not drinking helped a lot here again. Only 15 places were available and there were hundreds of applicants. But she made it. The training is here in Ventspils but she would probably be stationed back where she came from. She loves the beach but looks forward to extending her career. The border that really needs guarding lies east.
She agrees to have a bite in town with us but this proves not so easy in this still underdeveloped place. With low incomes eating out is a luxury. The bus driver is angry when going back home as she does not have loose change for the fare. A spark of sunlight in this otherwise grey country struggling to break free from an ominous past in order to become a real EU country.