Riga, Sarkaņkalns Hospital
The German army have requisitioned the larger hotels, as well as private houses, for use as barracks or hospitals. My hospital is the old prāta slimnīca (mental hospital). The previous patients had to move out.
My mother has come to visit me in hospital. It is a big surprise, as I do not know who could have told her where I am. I did not ask how she got to Riga. It could have been on a neighbour’s truck, a train or maybe in a cart but either way, it must have been a difficult 140 km journey.
One of the nurses told me a very important visitor was waiting for me in the square. I was quite excited as I hurried out of the front of the hospital but then I saw it was only mother.
Outside there are hundreds of wounded people laid around on the ground, mostly military men, making it difficult for us to stroll about. Although it is very crowded, we make the best of it. Mother has come alone. Once again, my father is not with her; she says he is too busy working at home. He no longer has any help on the farm. My brother Vilnis has replaced me as a conscripted labourer even though he is only twelve years old.
When I was a farm labourer, the farmer made us drink a pint of water before serving lunch. It was the farmer’s responsibility to provide lunch for all workers and he must have thought the water would fill our bellies, stopping us from eating too much food. One day, a new man asked the farmer for a second cup of water, which surprised the farmer. “Why do you want more water?” The farmer asked. “So I can stretch my stomach to make room for more food.” The man replied. “If I eat more now, I will not have to buy supper later.” It is funny but that farmer never made us drink water before lunch ever again.
Mother has come to Riga to buy pliers for father. He needs them to remove old nails to reuse around our farm. Apparently, the German army have requisitioned all metals, including buttons, for military use.
1862 opened as a psychiatric institution. During World War II, Sarkaņkalns hospital was re-designated a military hospital. On 24 July 1946, the hospital became Riga Orthopaedics and reparative surgery institute, and today it is the National Traumatology and Orthopaedics Hospital.
I have received my very first parcel in hospital. It is from home, from mother. She must have sent it after her visit. In the box are some hard biscuits which do not taste very nice but I am eating them anyway.
The last time I was in hospital, I was 17 years old. At that time, during 1941, the army was using some of the surrounding buildings as German Youth Clubs. I was in hospital to have my appendix removed and the boy in the bed next to mine was a member of one of those youth clubs. He told me how wonderful his club was. He talked about it all of the time and so when I had recovered, I joined a local club but I did not like it very much. All we did was dig holes and practice marching up and down. That other boy must have been at a better club than me.
I have seen a large group of people marching past the hospital. All of them have shaven heads and so I can only tell the men from the women by their cloths. I have asked a nurse what is happening and she says they are workers going to camps in Czechoslovakia. I do not know why their heads are shaven or why women are wanted at work camps
After the war, much later when the hostilities were over, I learned the fate of Riga’s Jewish community. It was only then I realised who I had seen from my hospital room, and the true fate waiting for those ‘workers’.