Back in 2008 I edited the revised and expanded translation of Uldis Germanis’ legendary history of Latvia, “The Latvian Saga”. Since Germanis had written the book in 1959 from Sweden and the story stopped with the Soviet occupation of Latvia during World War II, I wrote several additional chapters for this new edition to bring the history up to date.

I could never match Germanis’ literary flair but did my best to recount the events of the last 50 years in a style not unlike his. I especially liked the way Germanis ended his book, “Here we must end the saga of the Latvian people. Latvian history, of course, continued further. Things that are done today are history tomorrow.”

In my afterword I pointed out that history had indeed marched on and tried to capture what had happened in Latvia from 1959 until 2007. It was a challenge for two reasons. First, I was not a historian, and second, I had to write about events that I had personally participated in.

I find myself facing this dilemma once more in what will probably be my last commentary as Director of the Latvian Institute. On November 2, I was sworn in as a member of the Latvian Parliament / the 10th Saeima / and subsequently elected Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

During the 11 years that I headed the Latvian Institute, I had the privilege of working with a fantastic staff of people, all of whom were committed to the same cause: helping others get to know and understand Latvia a little bit better.

We’ve done it with words, pictures, film and events. We created a web page that people can use to learn something about our history, culture, people and politics. We’ve tried to help anyone who wanted to know more, including those who wanted to write, film or tell our story themselves.

When the economic crisis hit two years ago our staff was reduced from 14 to 4 and like everyone else in this country we were forced to rethink our priorities and realign our resources. The world media was reporting all the bad news coming out of Latvia, but we knew there was also good news. So for the last two years the LI has focused on the upside of the downside / providing timely, accurate and reliable news about what the government and parliament were doing to bring Latvia out of the crisis and back on its feet.

That work continued because after the downsizing I was fortunate to have three outstanding colleagues who did the heavy lifting to keep the news coming and the web page online.

If you are a regular reader of Latvia in Review, you can thank my able Deputy Director, Dita Erna Sile. She indefatigably researches and writes this weekly review of government activities, while still finding time to do a dozen other things to keep the LI fully engaged and informative.

The management of our web page, publications, photographs and distribution has always been handled picturesquely by Sandra Iriste. And until she left us last year to bring a daughter into this world, Una Veilande’s keen administrative skills made the bureaucracy seem much less bureaucratic.

The Foreign Ministry is now seeking candidates for a new head of the LI, and if the 2011 budget makes it possible, the LI will keep reporting next year on what the politicians are doing to strengthen Latvia’s recovery from last year’s doom and gloom.

Since I am now one of those politicians, I will no longer be writing about what others are doing, but will take an active part in some of the doing myself. As Director of the Latvian Institute I was always upbeat about Latvia’s future, regardless of the trials and tribulations our country faced. That’s one of the things that Uldis Germanis’ book reminded me of.

As Germanis wrote, the “things that are done today are history tomorrow.” The Latvian saga continues and I only hope that the history we make in the 21st century will be a much brighter story for future historians.