by Latwest Association/Noel Lyons
The Latest Association is a Mayo-based voluntary group supporting Eastern European immigrants in the community. They wish to commemorate Gunars Meijers, a Latvian Wesinger songwriter, whose sudden loss was felt by many of their diaspora. Their community has often endured loss of loved ones in silence due to distance from home. With ‘A Fond Goodbye’ they wish to communicate to them in poetry and song their understanding and support.
The project will publish a set of poetry and song lyrics in three languages – English, Latvian and Gaeilge – including established folk songs and original works. This will include the translations of Irish poets such as Pádraig Pearse, Antaine Rafteirí and Seán Clarárach Mac Domhnaill and famous Latvian poets Guntars Racs, Janis Peters and Ziedonis Purvs. It hopes to build bridges providing links of understanding, to commemorate loss of home and connect the understanding of present immigrants with Ireland’s own history of emigration. The publication will be provided as a resource for schools to teach the three languages.
Through previous arts community projects, Latwest have found that the young Latvian diaspora were thrilled to have displays and voices of home here in Ireland. These projects lifted their sense of identity and self esteem and helped them cope with sudden deaths and loss in their families and the community. They also provided a sense of pride in their history and at the same time a sense of inclusion and belonging in their new home here. One of the works describes how “the hearts of homeland feed the lonely who hunger for the warm light of the memory” – thus describing the coping with loss, especially during covid where many were trapped and isolated.
Below is an original poem written by Noel Lyons, translated into Irish.
Labhair mé leat sa gháirdín
Nuair d’ardaigh tú sa bhláth
An cumhacht ag pleascadh ionam
Mar a bhí mar a bheidh mar atá
Bhí tú i gconaí ann im gháirdín
Ag lasadh coinneal im’ chroí
Ag inspreagadh mo spiorad folamh
Ó fhág tú sa taoide istigh
Do chonaic mé thú nuair do tháinig
Tocht do ghlór im’ chluas
Do straois i ndúiseacht na mbláthanna
‘Is mo spiorad ag eitilt suas.
I spoke with you in the garden
When you rose within the flower
As was as is as will be again
I felt your defining power
You are always there in my garden
Lighting the candle inside
Inspiring my empty spirit
Since you left on the inner tide