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New Book about Latvians Displaced by World War II
By R.P. BenDedek
Oct 27, 2013 - 12:20:57 AM

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Recently I received publicity material from Ventis and John Plume concerning a recently completed historical record of the trials and tribulations of Latvians displaced during the Second World War. The Book Title is 'Insula: Island of Hope'.

According to the material provided, they themselves spent four years of their young lives in Insula, a camp for Latvian displaced persons after WWII. They have since compiled stories of their peers and placed them into this new book, the foreword for which was written by Dr. Vike-Freiberga, former President of Latvia.

I am currently in touch with the Plumes and hope to soon be able to provide our readers with some additional information about this book. In the Meantime, I provide for readers the publicity material that was provided.

R.P. Bendedek

Those who lived in Insula Displaced Persons Assembly Center had known a peaceful life in Latvia; however, the turmoil of war and foreign occupations changed their homeland into a dangerous place. They fled, leaving behind their homes and possessions, and they suffered the ravages of war, disease, and hunger. Insula: Island of Hope, edited by John and Ventis Plume, tells their stories.

"Insula" is the Latin word for island. It is a fitting name, for the Latvian refugee camp was located in the Bavarian Alps: an island of Latvians set apart from the Germans who lived there, the American soldiers occupying the land, and the other various refugees. They stayed at Insula for only four years, but, for the Latvian refugees, it became a haven. It was a secure, safe place to live after the turmoil they had endured, and it became a springboard for new lives abroad in North and South America, Australia, and even North Africa.

Ventis and John Plume spent some of the formative years of their young lives in Insula. Their tireless research gathering stories, of compiling, writing, and editing has resulted in Insula: Island of Hope. The book also features a frank and informative foreword by Dr. Vaira Vike-Frieberga, former Latvian refugee and president of the Republic of Latvia from 1999-2007. These powerful memoirs of survival amidst the ravages or war serve as an inspiration to readers, who truly learn what it meant to Latvian refugees to have Insula, their island of hope.

Talis J. Colberg, JD, PhD, the former attorney general for the State of Alaska and the honorary consul for the Republic of Latvia in Alaska, says, "Most descendants of Latvian immigrants know their own family story. This book makes it clear that there was also a collective experience as a people that provides a common heritage that should make all Latvians proud. The photographs are excellent. The stories are moving. This book in now part of the story of a great people."

Latvians and others are enthusiastic about the book. One, Inta Cloud, says, "Without the book, our experiences would be forgotten. It is a story that should be told." Nolan Zavoral, an American author and editor, adds, "These Latvian stories should be required reading in public school and colleges in this country. These are tough, honest memories about scrapping daily for food and shelter amidst the ravages of war. Yet none of these do the Latvians come across as victims. They are, in the fullest sense, survivors, and I have to say there's a nobility that shines through."

Book Title: Insula - Island of Hope
ISBN: 978-1-61863-383-5
Book Pages: 453
Price: $22.95

Ventis Plume and John Plume, Editors


  • Ventis and John Plume were born in Latvia prior to WWII. In 1941, while under Soviet occupation, their father was listed for deportation to Siberia; however, he was tipped off by a friend and managed to escape arrest by going into hiding with his family. Within a few years, thousands of Baltic refugees were fleeing to Germany; the Plume family joined them in 1944. The long journey, which eventually led to life in a new land, took them for a few brief years to the camp at Insula. Sixty years later, Ventis and John Plume decided to gather the stories of all those who spent time at the refugee camp of Insula.

Other excerpts and photographs from 'Insula - Island of Hope' include:

November 16, 2013 Stories of WWII Latvian Refugees (at

November 10, 2013 Photograph of the Week: Insula - Island of Hope

November 10, 2013 Insula Began in Bruckmuhl (Excerpt from 'Insula - Island of Hope')

November 3, 2013 Photograph of the Week: Watercolors of Insula by Leo Trinkuns (1899-1948)

November 3, 2013 Forward to Insula - Island of Hope by Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga

October 27, 2013 New Book about Latvians Displaced by World War II

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