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Sandra Martinsone's memory of the house number 5 on Olivu Street

  • 03.07 2020 "EcOlive" News

Sandra Martinson's family have lived on Olives Street for three generations. In the 11th apartment of the fifth house of Olivu Street, Sandra's grandparents arrived shortly after the Second World War in year 1947. During the war, the family was spending time in the countryside, but after returning to Riga, they discovered that a Soviet army officer had moved in their apartment. He ran out of the apartment with a shotgun and threatened to shoot anyone who would dear to enter the apartment. So Sandra's grandmother and grandfather stayed on the street with a small child (Sandra's mom). At that time, they had only so much money to be able to buy a small one-room apartment on Olivu Street with a kitchenette and a room.

The crossing of Torņakalns Street and Vienibas Street, 1938. Photo from Sandra Martinson's private archive.

The appearance of the building and the yard. Little Sandra was born in 1966 and spent all her childhood playing on Olivu Street, which looked different from today. Even then, like today, the fifth house on Olivu Street was numbered 5. In childhood, Sandra did not know what olive is, because in the Soviet era she had not seen such miracles. After the restoration of the Republic of Latvia ( in the 1990's) when olives appeared on the shelves of the grocery shops, she learned what they are and how they look.

Sandra's grandmother at her windows (on the right side the entrance gate of neighboring house), 1956.

Sandra's grandmother at her windows (on the right side the entrance gate of neighboring house), 1956.
Photo from Sandra Martinson's private archive.

Gates from the side of the street September 3, 2018

Gates from the side of the street September 3, 2018.

Sandra remembered that the two-story house had two entrances - both at the ends of the building. There were 12 apartments in the house. On the side where Sandra lived, there were four apartments on each floor, and on the other side of the building - two, much larger apartments. The common toilet was in the corridor - dry, but when the water supply was installed - with the dropping water. At the end of the corridor, at the door that came from the street, there were locked cupboards for each apartment called anchambers. Sandra remembered: “There were all sorts of men's stuff left, guards and other things I did not understand. There was also always a pot with the pig fat and some frozen pig meat brought from the countryside.”

 Sandra Martinsone with Mom, Olive Street 1967-1968. in the winter

Sandra Martinsone with Mom, Olive Street 1967-1968. in the winter.
Photo from Sandra Martinson's private archive.

Olivu Street

Olivu Street, 3rd September 2018.

Under the house, where today from the side of the yard there are the stares, a basement is also in a vivid memory of Sandra: “In the basement each apartment had its own compartment, there were jars of jam, vegetables, potatoes. There was also one compartment in which people were once living. I always adhered to the door and tried to see what’s left there, because it seemed so horrible for us to live in the cellar:” A narrow stare case lead to the attic, where the apartments are nowadays. That was aplace ehere the washed laundry was drying: “At the attic of the sensation was surreal, all the pigeons who had settled there were making the atmosphere even more scary.”

Olive streer 5 – the side of phasade

Olive streer 5 – the side of phasade, 3rd of September 2018.

Today, the yard looks completely different from Sandra's childhood: at that time the soil covered the yard and it was often possible to find all kinds of junk there. At that time in the yard there was a blackboard with a roof on which the names of the inhabitants of the apartments were written with a white chalk. At the moment there is a window in that place. There were little gardens, small sheds and a garage in the yard, but in the middle of it, there was a water pump from which the wives took water for washing the laundry. Today in the building situated in the yard there is the eye clinic of Olive. Sandra's mom Mara remembered that she had had her own geese. It happened that a goose with a newly-cut head had escaped and flew through the wall without a head.

Sandra Martinsone in the yard of Olive street 5 -
the place where the inner yard is nowadays, year 1960-1970

Sandra Martinsone in the yard of Olive street 5 - the place where the inner yard is nowadays, year 1960-1970
Photo from Sandra Martinson's private archive.

The yard of Olive street 5, 3rd September of 2018

The yard of Olive street 5, 3rd September of 2018.

Inhabitants. The inhabitants of the building were a diverse public: “My mother, when I started asking her, was very short in the words - there were just old women who had nothing to do. I still remember a lonely, rather artistically driven man though. To me, a child who had read all the underground books and had seen the Soviet propaganda films, he seemed to be a dissident. More likely he was some kind of person related to the world of art. My parents did not notice him. Sandra also remembers a nice woman, who lived next door:" For me as a child, the favorite neighbour was aunt Rozkalne living behind the wall. Everything smelled like from the times of Ulmanis at her place. Rest in peace!”

The fifth house was dominated by adults, there were few children, so Sandra had a girlfriend from a neighboring house. There was also a bunch of children living in the other houses on the street. Along the Olivu Street children walked quite a bit, especially during school time, because there were Latvian and Russian schools and kindergardens nearby. Sandra remembers that at that time the children had uniforms.

Administrator of the building. In the second staircase lived house manager Mrs Grosman, who performed her duties until the seventies. She, as it turned out, was a very nasty lady, and children didn’t like her much. The manager was a relative of previous owners of the building and a great patriot of Latvia. She silently hoped that the Soviet era would soon be over, therefore, she was trying to protect the building, so that it would be as beautiful as ever when back in the hands of previous owners. Sandra remembers that the lady had been particularly harsh with the children and did not let the kids to play a particular game, because in order to do this, the grid lines had to be digged in to the hard soil, and the lady saw it as a shameless deterioration of the property, so the children played at the pear tree that grew at the garages in the distance.

The officer. In the building situated at the yard (today Olivu street 5a), where there is now an eye clinic, there was a Soviet officer with his wife living on the first floor: “The officer drove home with his Ziguli and the lady was waiting for him in a silk dressing gawn at the blooming rose garden”. His lady did not allow the children to eat the grapes that grew at their window, but the little Sandra remembers that they were delicious and children were snatching them from the very front of the window anyway.

Olive street 5a – the bilding in the yard, where the grapes were stealed, 3rd September of year 2018

Olive street 5a – the bilding in the yard, where the grapes were stealed, 3rd September of year 2018.

The communist nudist. n the opposite of Sandra's flat there was Anna Briedis living. She was one of the great Communists, who had been active in the party. She liked to ride to the nudist beach and took Sandra's mother Mara also with her once, but she did not enjoy it much, because “it was full of bare old ladies laying there and men were staring at them with their binoculars from bushes”. So she never went sunbathing together with the communist again.

An umbrella is not a parachute. In Sandra’s childhood the television appeared, and she and her girlfriend saw how people are jumping with parachutes there. Both girls figured out that they could use an umbrella and jump from a the shead, but the umbrella was not the same thing as parachute, and both girls landed painfully. Other mischiefs were also done with her friend - while Sandra's parents were at work, both girls sometimes lit the bonefire in the middle of the room. They took oven's rings, burned some papers in the middle of those and smoked sausages. At one time, the chimney was not working well, the smoke was gathering in the room and the whole house started to panic! The neighbors complained to Sandra's parents. The girl did not want to get a punishment and said that she was cold and she tried to light the oven to warm up.

The place where the children got over the fence, to get in to the territory of the Riga Children's Clinical Hospital

The place where the children got over the fence, to get in to the territory of the Riga Children's Clinical Hospital, 3rd September of 2018..

On the other side of Olivu Street there was the Riga Children's Clinical Hospital (now - Children's Clinical University Hospital). A wooden fence used to surround the building, but later it was replaced with a concrete fence. A local boy made two holes in the fence so that he could get through the fence. The children crossed the fence and wandered in the hospital area. At that time it looked scrappy and there were old ambulance cars stored. The children were creeping across the fence and playing in those old cars. Today, the hospital's area is well cleaned up and old ambulances are no longer there, but even today, it is possible to see those holes in the fence made in Sandra's childgood.

Riga, September 12, 2018
Sandra Martinson's memory