At my Uncle’s funeral, I met what remains of my extended family. My father’s side comes from Latvia, where his father had been held in Riga and his mother sheltered in the countryside. After the war, my father’s parents relocated to England and had two children, and when my father grew up, he moved to Australia, where I was born. I never met my uncle until I moved to England, and only saw my grandfather a few times before he died.
My uncle’s death came as a shock, and brought a lot of pain to my cousins (his children) and, of course, my father. I was studying in England at the time. As is Jewish custom, he was buried as soon as possible, so my father (living in Australia) could not attend the funeral. I went in his stead, surrounded by people I had never met, for a man I had only met twice.
There were a few other relatives there, whom I had never heard of. My uncle had worked hard to track down remaining members of our family, and had maintained communication with them until his death, after which his wife had notified them. They lived scattered throughout Europe. After the ceremony, I asked them if anyone remained in Latvia. As a student of languages, I’m interested in one day studying one of the baltic tongues, and thought that if I had a relative there, no matter how far flung, despite never having met them, it would be nice to drop in and say hi, in the country we had roots in. They said there was nobody left there.