chapter  8
1 Pages

YEARNING FOR ‘HOME’: NARRATIVES OF BELONGING AND IMAGINED COMMUNITY

In this final substantive chapter, I want to look out from the home and the workplace to explore the ways in which, through participation in communal activities in the locality and neighbourhood and in the institutions of the nation state, these Latvian women constructed a sense of their communal identity and belonging – to an imagined Latvian community as well as to, or instead of, to an idealised version of Britishness. Latvians, and the many other European Voluntary Workers (EVWs), came to the United Kingdom as strangers, connected neither by geographical proximity nor colonial heritage, separated by language and to a large extent by culture from their hosts, despite their common European identity. They left a small, predominantly rural economy and society which in the inter-war years had experienced an unprecedented level of development and prosperity – Latvia’s golden age of independence – and, after several years of dislocation, homelessness and hardship, became in the main residents of industrial towns in the midlands and the north where life was generally hard and housing conditions poor.