International Conference at University of Glasgow “A Long Way from Home: The Baltic People in the United Kingdom”

February 11, 2013

The international conference “A Long Way from Home: The Baltic People in the United Kingdom” was held on 7 and 8 February 2013 at the University of Glasgow.

This academic event, together with the opening of the exhibition of the war refugees “When the War Was Over – European Refugees after 1945,” film screening, evening concert and reception was organised with the purpose of bringing together researchers of Baltic migration and diaspora, as well as providing local Baltic communities an opportunity to meet. Representatives of their embassies in the UK, including local Estonian and German Honorary Consuls were in attendance. Members of the Baltic community who entered the country shortly after WWII as European Voluntary Workers (e.g. “Baltic Cygnets”) and their descendants, as well as Balts who migrated to the UK after the EU enlargement were also present.

The opening of this event was held in the University Memorial Chapel. The director of CRCEES, Mr Richard Berry opened the exhibition of DPs, which is based on a research project, conducted by historians at the universities of Nottingham and Manchester, on population displacement and resettlement after the Second World War. Estonian ambassador, HE Aino Lepik von Wirén gave a short talk about the Estonians in exile and Estonians abroad.

A documentary film by Helga Merits “Class of 1943. Remember us when we are gone” (2012) was shown. This film tells a sad story of a generation of Estonian men whose destiny was strongly influenced by the war and who ended up in exile on different continents.

The two-day conference gave an opportunity to listen the presentations from the very different periods and aspects of Baltic migration in the UK. The first day concentrated more on historical matters, starting with a presentation on the Victorian and Edwardian time Lithuanian community by a historian Kęstutis Raškauskas from London. The researcher from the Herder Institute, Vytautas Petronis spoke about Lithuanians in Scotland and challenges in researching them. Independent researcher Tina Tamman’s presentation was about the Estonian embassy’s role in looking after the Estonian war refugees, GU postgraduate student Mariana Semenyshyn compared the situation of and attitudes towards the Baltic and the Ukrainian EVW-s in the UK, Eva Eglāja-Kristsone spoke about the Latvian writer in exile Guntis Zariņš and his tragic fate. The evening reception and classical music concert by the musicians of Glasgow Kelvin Ensemble was held in the university main building, followed by the dinner in honour of the Baltic ambassadors, hosted by the Vice-Principal of University of Glasgow, Professor Anne Anderson.

The presentations on second day looked at the different aspects of the current situation in Baltic migration. Scholars Elina Apsite-Berina, David McCollum, and Dace Dzenovska tackled the problems of Latvian migration. GU postgraduate student Inga Freimane spoke about the portrayal of Baltic people in the British media.

The conference was finished by the poster session: Anna-Cara Keim, a postgraduate student from London School of Economics introduced an interesting cross-cultural project on the Baltic Sea Region “Crossing the Baltic.” The expert on Estonian exile literature, Anne Valmas’s poster gave an overview of Estonian publishing activities in the UK, Maarja Merivoo-Parro from Tallinn University introduced several materials on Estonians in the UK, which are held in Minnesota archival collection. Lea Kreinin had prepared a poster about Estonian intellectual Rene Beermann, who worked at Glasgow University.

The two-day event ended with hopes to organise a similar event in the future, perhaps next year in London.

Lea Kreinin,