Suitcase: The Simsons family

The Simsons family’s suitcase is almost 100 years old. The suitcase, together with its owner, Albins Simsons, and his family have endured both World Wars in the 20th century and have been swept along in both of the great Latvian refugee waves – in 1914 to Ukraine in the East, and in 1944 to the West – firstly to Germany and then to the USA.
The suitcase bears witness to the pitiless destiny of many Latvian families in the 20th century – of packing suitcases to head off into the unknown as refugees, not knowing whether they’ll ever be able to return. More often than not, the things that were taken along in the suitcase were not only practical items necessary for survival, but also ones which provided a small ray of hope in this dramatic time.

To Ukraine and Germany

Albins Simsons’ father was a butcher in Bauska. At the beginning of the First World War in 1914, the Tsarist government issued an order to evacuate the inhabitants of Kurzeme.  As a result, Albīns’ family, the same as three quarters of a million other Latvian inhabitants, left their homes and fled or were evacuated to territories to the east of Latvia.Read more >

First years in America

Like the majority of refugees, the Simsons family left Latvia convinced that their time away would be brief: “that we’d depart, the war would end and we’d return”. But with the occupation of Latvia dragging on, this hope began to fade away. They had to find a more permanent home somewhere else. Read more >

The Simsons family today

Inta Šrāders, the eldest daughter of Albīns and Zelma, lives with her family in a suburb of Washington. She has directed various projects and advisory committees (boards) in one of America’s oldest and most significant nonpartisan organizations, the “League of Women Voters”. Read more >