Guntis Ulmanis, former president of Latvia, brought to life a song from his home country during a recent visit to the Library of Congress. Mr. Ulmanis was at the Library on January 16 to view Latvian treasures from the Library’s collections. He viewed a number of historic maps of Latvia and several books regarding his country (some of them books that he himself wrote).
Ann Hoog from the American Folklife Center showed him some materials from the 1975 West Coast Latvian Song Festival , photographs from the Ethnic Heritage and Language Schools collection of a Latvian school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a number of booklets and brochures from the Center’s subject files regarding Latvian-American organizations and traditions. You can find out about these and other collections of Latvian materials in the AFC’s archive by visiting our Latvia Collections Guide at this link.
Included in the January 16 display was a songbook from the 1975 Latvian folk song festival held in Seattle, Washington. While flipping through the book, Mr. Ulmanis stopped on one particular piece, Tumša nakte, zaļa zāle. He paused for a moment and announced, “I’m going to sing for you. I have not sung this in 20 years.” Right away, he broke into song and delighted the staff with his singing. He was clearly touched to see all the materials on display and thoroughly enjoyed his visit to the Library. We hope he visits us again soon … we’ll have the songbook ready!