Residences of Andrejs Upits, the writer

/The description is based on the writer’s own volume „Morning routines” , issued by publishers D.Zeltins and A. Golts, 1923).

  1. Kalniņi (1877-1882)

I was born the second son to my parents on 4 December (22 November), 1877, at ‘Kalnini’, Skriveri parish. My father was one of the two tenants of the mentioned house, situated on a high bank of the river, by the so-called Brasla Bridge.

I remember ‘ Kalnini’ as one of the most beautiful places of residence of mine. Especially, I recall the dark New Forest, close across the river, and it seemed to rustle totally distinctively than forests do now. I also remember, that it was at ‘ Kalnini’ where I started learning to read. All in all, I have very few and dim memories from my early childhood till I was six or seven years old.

My father owned a small grey horse, a couple of cows and a few other smaller farm animals.

My oldest memory reaches the time when I was wearing a fustian skirt and fell in the mud while crawling over flax sheaves cast in front of the garner. A vague reflection has remained of the instance, when I had crept under our horse’s belly to touch its black wart on the leg while my parents were loading the cart, and got a heavy thump. My chest was wearing the sign of the horse-shoe for pretty long. The other sign has still remained above my left eye. It is a sign of my father’s gift- a bugle, I fell onto it falling out of bed.

  1. Meža-Puntūži/Jaunpuntūži (1883-1884)

In 1884, our family moved to ‘Mezapuntuzi’, still in Skriveri parish, to work as metayers. This house had been built on the ground of ‘Jaunvegi’ household, whose owner and the mayor of the municipality, Janis Luks, was a distant relative to us. All this relatives’ case only caused our family extra corvee and service, not mentioned in the contract, which the other metayer was freed of. And once again, we were living two families in one room, though, a bigger one than that in ‘Kalnini’.

From life at Puntuzi, like watching a dream, there is a flash of a festive Saturday evening and a cluster of aspen with soft yellow leaves, in the middle of the field, where I was considered to have lost a knife.

  1. Vilku-Dobes /Silvas(1885-1892/

Having lived a year at ‘Mezapuntuzi’, we moved to the other house of ‘Jaunvegi’ , so-called ‘ Vilkudobes’ as tenants. My father, who had grown here at ‘Jaunvegi’ and worked as a menial at young age, had witnessed remnants of a huge forest in the place. Even earlier, when the forests were full of wolves, hollows were made in order to capture them. There was an old three-room hut with an old chimney and one front door. There were three barns and sheds under one roof. A bit farther, there was a half-wrecked forge, where a blacksmith had worked in former days. Our life was not really smooth and easy, though, we had our own separate room for the first time. The majority of time we were on the brink of starvation.

At ‘ Vilkudobes’  I started my work as a neatherd, including all pleasant and sad times, which, relatively closely to the reality, I have described in my novel „Old Shadows” (1934).

I must remark that here at ‘Vilkudobes’, based on the stories of my father and the landlord’s mother, I published my first two literary works. They were „How Our Ancestors Once Lived in Vidzeme” and „Proverbs Written in Skriveri”, published with a signature of Araju Andrejs in the „Majas Viesis” magazine in 1892.

There was little harmony at ‘Vilkudobes’. Everyday life and work winded and mixed, conflicts were quite common. My father was an extremely kind man and complied at any situation. But my mother, on contrary, was nervously hasty and strict- although fair herself, she could not bear any injustice to her. In the farthest room, the landlord’s father and mother dwelt. Father was tall, sullen, glum, but quiet. On contrary- mother was chatty and capricious. One more person of significance in my childhood was Holy Zeltins- my mother’s father, prototype of the old Robeznieks. He was queer card allover- short and tiny of height, with clean-shaven face and long chin, and unsound eyes. On Sundays he was reading the Bible or the preaching book for hours and singing endlessly lengthy songs. Having lived at the edge of a forest for many years, he knew trees and flowers, and showed especially good knowledge of birds, which he was curiously and passionately interested in. Seemingly, this is where from I have inherited my interest in flora and fauna, and this interest has never loosened.

At Vilku-Dobes I seriously worked as a neatherd. Five, six summers in a row I spent my days in the shadow of the wonderful cluster of fir trees, which seemed to me like a forest then fearing to lose my way in it. There were birches, ash trees, maples, elms, rowans, aspen trees, black and white alders grew among the firs. At the lower layer there was a thick fineness of linden, hazel, osier, honeysuckle, cloudberry and raspberry and a soft carpet of fern, hemlock and ground elder.

‘Vilkudobes’ is the place where Andrejs Upits plants his first tree- a larch.

  1. School of Skriveri parish (1888-1894)

In autumn 1888, I started attending school. The distance from ‘Vilkodobes’ to the parish school was at least 5 kilometres, so I took food enough for a whole week and only returned home on Saturdays. Of course, I could not ride to school as the children of landlords did. Now it seems to me, back then, every Monday there was a snowstorm and all the roads snow-drifted. I always reached the school feeling cold and my clothes all wet of wading through snow, and I could not warm myself in the classroom which was not heated. That is why I found school dreary at first.

My first school was an old wooden building, which burnt a couple of months later. So our lessons took place in rented rooms somewhere close to the railway station. In the autumn of 1889 the new school was open for studies. At that time, there was no other school building so big and posh in a vast district. I was at parish school for six winters and a few summers altogether. I left school at the end of 1894, in order to prepare for folk school teacher’s exams.

While at parish school, when I was about 15-16 years old, I wrote „Proverbs and Sayings by Skriveri People” and they were published in the magazine „Majas Viesis”. The magazine also published my article „How Our Ancestors Once Lived in Vidzeme” based on the stories of my father and ‘Vilkudobes’ landlord’s mother. If anyone happens to read the magazine of the 1890s and along the pages of different puzzles and riddles encounters the name of somebody called Mezmaliesu Andrejs or Araju Andrejs, then be sure- that is me.

  1. Mucenieki(1893-1895)

After having lived at ‘Vilkudobes’ for a pretty while, as the saying goes- until the last shirt, a necessity appeared  to look for a better place. One emerged at the most distant corner of the parish, by a huge forest, at Skriveri forest keeper’s Karlis Fenikss at ‘Mucenieki’ household. We were quite well as matayers at ‘Mucenieki’. The soil was new and rich, the crops grew quite remarkably. Besides, in winter and summer time there were opportunities to do various forestry works for our profit.

There was actually a whole village at ‘ Mucenieki’ and apart from us and our landlord, the forester and some woodworkers also lived there. While living at ‘Mucenieki’ I started to observe and notice lifestyles and relationships of different classes of people.

I continued my neatherd’s job at ‘Mucenieki’. The pasture was by the Grullani Forest and the Brasla River flew through it. I was alone there with the cattle of our and our landlord’s cows for whole days. During those three years spent at ‘Mucenieki’ I adapted to the forest environments, so that they seemed the most appealing to me.  Long after those times, in my dreams, I strolled through my childhood forests. As far as I remember, my first poetry attempts started at ‘Mucenieki’.

  1. Balozi (1896-1897)

When the baron of Skriveri established the semi-manor house of Vinterfeld at the so called Forestedge, and ‘Balozi’- one of the peasants’ houses remained safe and sound, we moved there as tenants. At first, life here appeared pretty appealing. We were lucky to rent the former landlord’s part of the house with three rooms and the apple garden. But soon the enthusiasm loosened. We turned out at some kind of bondage and were in servitude for the wide-known nasty landlord Reksons: we had to work off our rent by reaping the crops, hay and clover and refracting rocks in the fields of Vinterfeld.

I lived at different houses of Skriveri parish for twenty years. Over the period, I learnt the unenviable life of a poor metayer, peasant farmer and tenant, and gradually soaked with hate for all sort of servant keepers and leeches.

  1. Siksneni(1901-1908, summer months)

In 1901, my parents and my brother Martins came as tenants to the ‘Siksneni’ household, which belonged to the baron of Skriveri. I recall, it was an old and long dwelling house with quite many rooms at the landlords as well as servants’ parts. I spent my summer breaks here.

  1. Palatas(1905-1906)

In 1905, I married to Olga, a daughter of Janis Tirumnieks, the tenant of ‘Palatu’ household in Skriveri parish. I spent a couple of weeks there in 1905, and the whole summer of 1906. Since the baron had evicted the Tirumnieki family from the rented house in 1907, they moved to ‘Siksneni’, where my parents and my brother lived already. Since then, I have not been to ‘Palatas’, just observed the beautiful place from a distance a couple of times.

Memories by Janis Gravis, a teacher and friend of Andrejs Upits

„I would like to mention that in the middle of the summer of 1905, I was to Andrejs’s wedding. It took place at Tirumnieku Olga- his bride’s parents’ rented house, ‘Palatas’ at Skriveri. Not only relatives were there at the wedding, but a number of Andrejs’s fellow workers from Riga, too, -teachers Pludonis, Staks, Osis, Mezvevers, Sungaillis. Due to the revolutionary events, the Aizkraukle Church was out of service, so the wedding ceremony was held right there at ‘Palatas’. The wedding feast took place in the yard of ‘Palatas’, where the tables for guests were placed under sailcloth hoods. I recall Pludonis being in a very happy mood and delivering a spectacular toast. In the evening, Pludonis and I sang a duet of that time’s popular operetta „Beautiful Helena”, which deserved appreciation from the wedding guests.

In 1906, the Upisi family’s son Karlis was born.

/’Palatas’ burnt in 1975/

  1. The first family house at Skrīveri (1909-1915)

Having expelled my father-in-law, the baron of Skriveri sold him half a hectare wood by the Skriveri station for 500 roubles. By cutting the firs, we acquired building material for the construction of our family house. Our first family house was built by my friend Martins Bergholcs. The building was designed according to my own plan and draft and was much prettier than the current- green-painted plank, arch-shaped wooden decorations at each end and a balcony.

The construction of the house and the establishment of the garden and plantations required a lot of effort and funds; however, the period from the autumn of 1909 until the middle of the summer of 1915 was very productive in the literary field. (The house was destructed during World War I)

From 1908 until 1915, Andrejs Upits devoted his time and effort to literature criticism, literary historical works, and journalistic articles, and worked as an editor. He writes novels „New Sources”, „The Woman”, „In the Silk Net”, „Gold” and „Renegades”, the long story „The Last Latvian” and a lot of short stories and narratives.

  1. Balsares (1918-1921)

As life in Riga was unbearable under the pressure of German occupation, we decided to return to Skriveri. We knew already, that my house had been burnt by German army. In 1918, on the last April days, we borrowed a cart and went to the house of my brother-in-law- ‘Balsares’ in Skriveri. Miraculously, the cellar was untouched, this is where my relatives dwelt, and so was the firewood shed with a small annex, so we settled there. The annex was so low, that you could only stretch straight at its highest edge. The summer of 1818 was cold, windy and rainy. The wind blew inside through every slot and rainwater was pouring on the head. On the field, we were gathering wet-soaked barley ears of the previous year’s cut, grinded them with a coffee-mill and made porridge. Dock leaves and pigweed- anything that was soft enough was picked and eaten.

In the autumn of 1918, we finally got under a proper roof, as together with a few families we renovated a part of the burnt masonry living house of ‘Balsares’. Since there were difficulties to borrow a horse, it took much effort to bring logs from the wood; we found planks and nails in the soldiers’ deserted dug-outs. At the beginning of November, when the annex of the firewood shed did not actually give any shelter, we entered our new room. It was moist, not very warm either, but at least you could straighten yourself without fearing to hit your head. The rain did not pour on you and the wing did not flutter your hair. And it was really nice when I put up the floor of the planks dug out of the ruined trenches by the Daugava River.

After the writer’s death in 1970, the house was stated the branch of the memorial museum of Andrejs Upits.

  1. The other family house in Skriveri (1922-1940, summer periods)

In 1921, I started considering renovating the family house in Skriveri. On the former rudiments and former size, it was again built by my friend Martins Bergholcs, but the lacking log material was brought by me, with my son Karlis and elderly father assisting. In 1922, one end of the building was ready, that is where we spent the summer- the first one after 1915. Vast majority of my allowances within the following ten years was spent on building the house, annexing, refurbishing, painting, planting and so on.

Since 1952, the memorial house-museum was run by The Museum of Literature and Art History of J.Rainis.

/Places of residence and work of Andrejs Upits. R.:Liesma, 1967,p.117./