Oral History Excerpts

Ulo Kirs
Latvia

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the Distant Past

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Have Had Leprosy

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I was born in Estonia in 1926. My father had a farm of 70 hectares and I did farming work. I started as a shepherd . . . . In 1941, one of my two brothers was deported to Siberia and I had to work instead of my older brother on the farm. I found the disease when I was captured as a prisoner of war in the Russian Camp. In 1946, I was arrested and sent to an Estonian leprosy hospital [Kuuda]. I was involved in a saw mill, produced timber for 15 years. I consider that during this period I was forced to work in the forest, just taking down the trees. An extremely hard physical work . . . .

In 1963 I came to Talsi (Latvia) . . . . Under these conditions, I had planned many years ahead what I would do. Here I have my small car and I can drive to Talsi to buy what I want. In the new hospital, I’m afraid I won’t be able to cope and I am expecting death to release me . . .

-- Ulo Kirs, excerpts from oral history conducted by Anwei Law. Mr. Kirs had been told two weeks earlier that he and the other residents of Talsi, the last leprosy hospital in Latvia, would have to move within a month to a hospital in Riga. Translation from Latvian and Russian by Benito Groshus.

Ulo Kirs, age 81, Latvia. Photo by Henry Law