Latvia in London: The London Latvian House

Karoline Zobens-East is a third generation British Latvian whose grandparents moved to Yorkshire after the Second World War. She co-founded www.latviesiem.co.uk. We spoke to Karoline about the Latvian community in London:

I was born in London but from birth have been heavily involved in the Latvian community both in London and England. Although not an EU migrant myself, I interact daily with people who have moved to London from Latvia recently.

The Latvian Community in London

It’s difficult to know the exact number of Latvians living in London, but recent figures suggest the number could be around 20,000. The community itself is much smaller and we can usually expect around 200 people at a large scale event inLondon.

The community is very active with a choir, a traditional dance group, a school and various other organisations and groups. The community actively organises all sorts of events from theatre productions, music concerts and karaoke evenings, to Independence Day celebrations and more formal, traditional celebrations.

The London Latvian House

The London Latvian House is the beating heart of the Latvian community in London: Latvian people, food, drink, music, and atmosphere. It’s the only place in London you will feel the traditions of Latvia at any time of the year.

When the Latvian House was originally bought by the Latvian Welfare Fund (back in the 1950s) its purpose was to be the central meeting point for Latvians in London so they could feel at home away from home.

Nothing much has changed since then. It gives all Latvians in London and the UK a place to stay, to meet friends (there’s a bar in the basement) and to hold all sorts of events.

The choir, dance group and school all use the Latvian house for their rehearsals and classes and the hall provides a perfect space for a small scale concert.

The Latvian bar is a place where Latvians can enjoy Latvian music, food, beer and sports on a regular basis. There are always Latvian beers available to buy, as well as stronger drinks, and on Fridays and Saturdays it’s possible to eat a traditional Latvian supper cooked by Latvian chefs. Every evening ends up in the favourite Latvian pastime – song!

In addition to all this there is also a Latvian library in the house which is open a few days a week which has a vast collection of Latvian books.

I think the Latvian House will also provide Latvians in London a place to come and watch Latvians competing in the Olympic Games. I expect the men’s BMX races to of particular interest, as the current Olympic champion happens to be a Latvian!

Where to Sample Latvian Culture

Apart from the Latvian House and specific events organised by the community, I don’t believe there are any other places in London where you can experience Latvian culture.

However, Latvian produce is available at most Polish and Lithuanian shops so it’s always possible to find a Latvian delight for your dinner!

Setting Up latviesiem.co.uk

I set up latviesiem.co.uk around two years ago, with a friend who moved to England from Latvia. Apart from a couple of websites and newspapers, we felt there was a lack of information about Latvian communities in the UK, and for Latvians who have recently moved to the UK.

We have information designed to help Latvians settle into life in the UK, as well as news about and for Latvians living in the UK. Here they can find travel, education, work and emergency information. Our main audience is Latvians living in the UK, therefore, most of the website is in Latvian.

Is there anywhere else you can experience Latvian culture in London? Tell us in the comments below.

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  1. Rita says:

    Latvia a small country with a big passion, an experience no one should miss out on. I’m sure the London Latvian House will be busy during the Olympics with friends old and new

  2. Edgars says:

    Briinishkjiigi ka ir taada vieta!

  3. Agnese says:

    Latvia its amazing country to visit.Wild ,beautifull nature,Old town Riga,Sigulda’s castle…..Jurmala.Nice people and healthy food.

  4. Brigitta says:

    My father was from Latvia, he came over here after the end of WW11 and never went back home, never saw his family again and died 21 years ago never having gone back home. This is very sad for me and I know nothing about his homeland or his family, he was scared to talk about any of them it was like if I do not talk about them, then I cannot get sad. I have tried many times to try and find any living relatives of my father, (he was the youngest with 2 older sisters) and never had any luck. I am wondering if there is anyone I could get help from to find any family, if any are alive.

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Brigitta, check out this website: http://www.celmina.com where there is lots of help for english speaking descendents of Latvians to trace their families. There is also an active facebook group type in Latvia Genealogy. I will look out for you there. Best wishes and good luck.

  5. Iveta says:

    Hi,I am looking for a Latvian after school or group for my 4 year old soon.Does somebody know if there is any in London or not very far from London?
    Would be very thankful for any information.

  6. Anita says:

    HI THERE; AM LATVIAN (BRITISH BORN) AND HAVE A HLAF LATVIAN DAUGHTER; VERY PROUDOF HER HERITAGE SHE IS TOO. WOULD YOU PLEASE BE ABLE TO LINK ME TO THE WEBSITE ABOVE, BUT IN ENGLISH, AS I/WE DON’T SPEAK LATVIAN. THANKS SO MUCH FOR ANY HELP WHATSOEVER. ANITA.

  7. Hilary Ikstrums says:

    Hello,all you good Latvian people.I am looking for anyone who is from the Ikstrums/Ixtrums/Mateus(s)/Grunvald family.My husband George(born 1940 Riga) emigrated to Australia approx.1949 from Germany(was in displaced person’s camp there),with his dad,Herberts(born approx. 1910,Mum was born Grunvald surname),mum Emilija(born approx 1918 born mateus) and 2 brothers,to Australia,to the Bonegilla migrant camp,and then lived in Burrinjuck,near Yass,then Ballarat.We are now in Cleveland,Brsbane,Australia and the Ikstrums family now has had 27 direct decendants,plus spouses,all over Australia.If there is anyone who knows or has known(or is related to) someone with these surnames,or has heard of them,we would love to hear from you.I know one Ikstrums went to Yorkshire,Bradfield,I think.I am trying to put together our history/family tree.Thanking you so much,Hilary Ikstrums.

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