Freedom of Movement 10 - Riga.
Livija Uskalis is Latvian.
On meeting her, the first thing that struck me was the broad Yorkshire accent. I knew - because we’d discussed lots via email - that she would have an accent; born in Bradford to Latvian refugee parents who fled the Soviet invasion, she grew up doing both completely normal British things and, at home, speaking Latvian and immersed in the culture of her parents’ homeland.
I felt she would be an ideal candidate to illustrate the value of free movement and the values of tolerance and welcome that we should extend to refugees and migrant workers alike.
Although many of the Latvian diaspora returned ‘home’ after the fall of communism, a second wave of emigrants once again set out across the continent in search of work after the financial crisis of 2008, mostly to Ireland, Germany and the UK. It’s easy to do, and for some - especially from the south east of the country, bordering Russia - low wages and poor job prospects mean many feel there are few reasons to stay. Livija and her family are unusual, then, in that all of them have returned to, and have stayed in, Latvia.
Community and free movement. From refugees to community builders to returners, a million or more Latvians are on the move.