Francis Trasuns – a true inspiration

In the eastern part of Latvia lies Latgale, one of 3 historical regions ( others being Kurzeme and Vidzeme) of our country, that together created Republic of Latvia in 1918.

Francis Trasuns, a theologian, founder of the state of Latvia, advocator of the idea of unified Latvia, public figure, poet and publicist, represents one of the first educated Latvians with Latgallian peasant roots.

In the early 18th century the Russian Tsar Peter I occupied present day territory of Latvia. The Latvian populated land was divided into provinces, thus dividing Latvian people. The Latgale part was part of Vitebsk Province (Vitebsk is a Belorussian city today)

He was the first to appreciate the common origins of the Latgallians of Russia`s Vitebsk Province and the rest of the Baltic Latvians, their almost identical languages and their common future within a Latvian state.

To serve his people he graduated from Ecclesistical Seminary and Academy in St Petersburg in 1891. While there he wrote Latgallian grammar.

From 1892 he worked in Riga, Daugavpils, St Petersburg and Rēzekne – and everywhere he appealed to Latvians to unite and to be proud of their nation. Partly these activities led to charges of undermining foundations of Tsarist Russia for which he was sent in exile in Vladimir in 1896.

In 1917 on his suggestion, the Congress of Latgale was convoked in Rēzekne, which resolved that Latgale should unite with other parts of Latvia.

He said to the congress “We need to decide: should Latgale live and flourish or should it fall into decay and spiritual death; are we with a culture to the West or with barbarism to the East”

In 1918 he was one of the National Council that proclaimed the sovereign Republic of Latvia.

After Kurzeme and Vidzeme were freed from German troops at the end of WW I the Latvian Army proceeded to free Latgale from the Red Army. The success of the operation owed much to the support of the Polish Army.

Even so, Head of the Catholic church Boleslaw Springowicz, being a Pole and referring to Catholicism in Latgale, strove to achieve Latgale`s separation with the intention of it`s subsequent joining to Poland. He insisted, ineffectively, that his subordinate Bishop Trasuns should by his political activities and support the efforts of Polish clergy.

In 1925 because of political discord Francis Trasuns was excommunicated from the Catholic Church to be reinstated by the Vatican only in 1998.

He died in 1926 after a stroke. Just after he had tried to stand in the ante – room of St Jacobs during Easter service. However he was spotted and asked to leave.

“When I read about the life of the priest Trasun and the peripetias he went through, I just had tears in my eyes, my heart clenched and I literally wanted to cry. He was a patriot of his land, a believer, advocated for values, faith, his land and language, but he experienced a great deal of confusion from those who were closest to him who should support him, ”says Archbishop Zbigniew Stankevich of Riga on the day Trasun’s name was honored on his 150th anniversary.

Memorial plate of Francis Trasuns you can see at the wall of the Catholic Cathedral of Latvia – St Jacobs.

It is impossible to deliver all about this great man in this short description , however i hope you could feel through his legacy.

He was born on the 16th of October in 1864.