Birthday wishes to a little Eastern European country! 

November 18 is like the most important and I believe memorable day for the country of Latvia and its people. Back in 1918 on this very day a little Eastern European country proclaimed its Independence. I'm not going to dig deep into the history and date back the USSR period that Latvia had to face, the restoration of Independence back in 1991. Indeed the mentioned points matter in your overall understanding, but back in 97 years ago it was about independent vision, own believes, attempt to build own future, the better future for the peoples of Latvia. And by peoples I don't mean only ethnic Latvians. I mean every single nationality that's ever been connected to this country.

It's pretty much a historical fact that Latvia has been a multinational country for centuries. Latvians, Germans, Russians, Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Estonians and many more have been forming this little Eastern European country for ages now. Yet we still keep forming this country in the 21st century. I am Russian (with a drop of Eastern blood). Everyone in my family are Russians. Yet the history of our family is quite closely linked to Latvia. We'd been linked before 1917 and we've been linked ever since 1940's-1950's. One of the strongest knots is tied around the House of Blackheads... And still, ever since I was born in 1992, in an independent country, I never felt myself a part of this country and its society... Never until I learnt the meaning and basics of tolerance and respect through my 3 years in London.

In London my surrounding included people from Russia, Latvia, Pakistan, India, Germany, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Iran, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Armenia, Sweden, Israel, France, Greece and many more. To wrap it all, I guess I had a chance to come across representatives of all five continents. And nothing - nationality, cultural background or religion - could set us apart. It was character and absence of common interests that could. During my 3 years at one of London's students livings I had 3 totally different flatmates. A girl from one of Muslim countries (feeling ashamed, but can't remember which exactly), who was meant to cover her head (am not sure if it's right to say that she had to wear half of burqa), a girl from South Korea and Latvia.

And you know, during those 3 years in a highly multinational society I believe I understood the power of tolerance and respect that am sticking to every single day. Tolerance and respect to myself and my own background in first place. To my own self I am Russian (with a drop of Eastern blood) from Latvia. A little quirky, but that's the reality. I also learnt tolerance and respect towards others, be he or she, for example, ethnic Latvian or Russian or half Latvian - half African... I believe real tolerance and respect come from understanding own self and not being afraid to share it, but it should also be joined by interest an respect towards the country you live in, its culture, its background. Boundaries are vanished now. And what am I trying to say is that November 18th is not only the day when the Independence of Latvia was proclaimed, it's also a celebration of freedom, life and bright future that we are going to form together, despite the fact our backgrounds, religion, actual nationality may differ...


Photo: T. Egorova