Latvian refugees in a Danish palace

Bārta folk costume created in a Danish refugee camp, c. 1946.

Bārta folk costume made in a Danish refugee camp, c. 1946.

Compared to Germany, where there were large numbers of refugees after the Second World War, there were only about 2,000 Latvian refugees in Denmark , scattered over 40 camps. One camp was set up in a palace near Vedbaek, outside Copenhagen where Vera Puķe-Puķīte and her family were located.

This palace had at one time belonged to the Greek king. The refugees housed there initially weren’t permitted to go outside the camp. They wanted some activity and often got involved in cultural events. Vera remembers:

You know what the Latvians did? They dyed woolen bed blankets black…And sewed skirts and on the bottom they sewed those folk designs on a sort of red ribbon … They really wanted the children to be patriotic as well.  None of the adults had a folk costume at the time.  Some had simply brought along something from Latvia, but who could have brought a complete folk costume with them? Not many thought of it at the time. They just thought about the essentials in a few bags and that’s all.

Vera,  a pianist, was glad that there was a piano in the palaceon which she could practice. Later, she played in concerts with singer Emma Eglīte at many different functions at Latvian camps and elsewhere as well. Vera was able to continue her professional education at the Danish Royal Conservatory (1946-1947).