29 July 2012
Returning to some of the history behind the book: Nina's great-great-grandparents (and her great-grandparents as well for that matter) were serfs, serfdom in Latvia having been introduced by the so-called Baltic Germans, who owned and ran the large estates and had a symbiotic understanding with the ruling Russians. In the seventeenth century, power in the Baltic area moved from Russia to Sweden - as the result of a series of battles - and Sweden, having no history of feudalism, immediately abolished the practice and introduced the peasants to education and a much better way of life. A century later, the tables turned and, with Russia once more in charge, the Baltic Germans resumed what they must have felt was a cheap and easy way of running their estates. Fortunately, by the mid-nineteenth century, with people becoming more aware of rights and liberties, serfdom was finally put to rest, but, even after the obligation was removed, Nina's great-grandparents and grandparents and even parents continued to work on the estates. While the industrial revolution gained in strength, attracting many estate workers into very different areas of work, there were still people - Nina's relatives included - who preferred to remain with what they already knew.