War and Christmas: A Latvian Artifact and Children’s Literature

Janis Chakars and Katie Peel (Gwynedd-Mercy College)

This paper, based on a work in progress, examines a Christmas story written by Latvian refugees in Marienbad, Czechoslovakia in 1944. The story was made as a book by hand in an edition of nine copies. In the wider world of children’s literature, it is unique. Its ending subverts the genres of holiday and refugee children’s literature. It also foreshadows adult literature produced by Latvian writers in exile. The text and illustration address issues of identity and displacement. They also display the challenges of communication between adults and children at the time and the use of literature as an attempt to bridge such difficulties. Ultimately, the story offers no sense of catharsis and no helpful lesson for young readers as might be expected. Instead, it says more about the frustration and uncertainty faced by adults as they try to maintain and promote a sense of Latvian continuity and tradition in perilous times.

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