From 20th to 28th of July, 2015, the summer field school on Jewish ethnography took place in Rezekne (Latvia)
The school was organized by Sefer Center in partnership with the Council of the Jewish Communities in Latvia, museum "Jews in Latvia", with financial support by Genesis Philanthropy Group (Charities Aid Foundation's program "Jewish Communities"), UJA Federation of NY,State Culture Capital Foundation (SCCF) and Claims Conference.
click on the image to see the school's program (in Russian)
It was the third field school in Latgalia (the region of Latvia) organized by Sefer Center. Students and scholars from Latvia, Russia and Estonia took part in it.
Amosova Svetlana (Moscow)
Fyodorov Vladimir (Riga)
Gansovskaya Karolina (Riga)
Geht Marina (Riga)
Ilyina Kseniya (Riga)
Pecherskaya Anna (Riga – Tartu)
Pilipovets Tatyana (Tartu)
Pogodina Svetlana (Riga)
Polyan Alexandra (Moscow)
Runtse Inese (Riga)
Strods Kaspars (Rezekne)
Shelya Artyom (Tartu)
Shirikova Alexandra (Moscow)
Expedition's main goals were the studying of the oral history, ethnical stereotypes about the Jews from old Latgalian native population, as well as the studying of traditional culture, ethnography, folklore and Yiddish specifics of the Latgalian Jews.
The field work was provided in several locations during the expedition: Varakliany, Vilyany, Rezekne, Ludza and Riga. 40 interviews in Yiddish, Russian and Latgalian were recorded.
Besides it the participants attended the lecture by Inese Runtse "Latgalian Indentity: History and Our Time" and visited the ethnographic museums in Rezekne and Varakliany.
Expeditions and field work, that took place in Latgale (South-East of Latvia), were very important for me. The participation in this field work gave a new experience in academic researches, especially in the problem of collecting the Holocaust narratives and the problem of its memorization. Materials gathered in expeditions are used after in the frames of academic folklore (ethnographic) courses and are published in international scientific collection of articles.
On the academic level, even though my MA thesis is dedicated to the oral history and folklore research, for me participation in the “Sefer” Summer Schools in Ludza and Rezekne was the only way to gain field work experience under the supervision of professional researchers, as my university doesn't have any programs available. On a personal level I feel infuriated that in Latvia very little is being done by the State to preserve and research the history of the Holocaust and therefore it was very important to me to participate in the Sefer's projects as they might constitute the only serious academic work done in this field currently
My participation in the project was important not only for me personally, but also for the museum "Jews in Latvia" where I work, and the Riga Jewish Community. It is very important that the staff of the museum takes part in the field work connected to the Holocaust and its commemoration in Latvia, and publishes articles in the international academic journal. The collected materials and the results of the field work reflected in the articles can be and already are used in further researches, exhibitions, educational programs etc. Both for me personally and for me as the representative of the museum taking part in this field work in the future is very important, as now the last evidences of the rich pre-war Jewish life and Holocaust in Latgale can be collected; unfortunately, after about 5-6 years the last witnesses of that time will be gone.
In my opinion, the expeditions in Latgalia help to create a general picture of human ignorance and cruelty. Local oral stories of average people are small parts that create grand narrative of genocide. I believe that oral stories make "big" problems more comprehensible and private for any listener. The idea of holocaust as of private tragedy for as many people as possible could prevent appearance of new cases of hate crimes.
Oral history expeditions gives a valuable contribution to the history of the Jewish people and the discovery process.New and experienced researchers have the opportunity to get to know the history of Jews in Latgale, including the dark times of Holocaust. This expedition was significantly expanded my knowledge of the once widely represented in the Jewish religious, economic, and daily life. Analizynig memory stories from an expedition, I revealedthat there are reflected unknown or a little known nuances of the relationship between Jews and the local citizens, which are kept until this day by the older generation of Latgale residents.
Photos are here.