In a Baltic Nation, Fear and Suspicion Stalk Russian Speakers

The Russian-speaking widow was born in Latvia 63 years ago, when it was still a part of the Soviet Union, got married there and raised a family. She has never lived anywhere else.

So it came as a nasty surprise this fall when she received a curt official letter saying she had lost her rights to residency, a state pension and medical care. “You must leave the territory of the Republic of Latvia by Nov. 30, 2023,” she was informed.

With nowhere to go, the widow, Nina Marcinkevica, who has heart and lung problems and high blood pressure, said she collapsed from shock and spent the next three days in bed weeping.

Ms. Marcinkevica’s home in the mostly Russian-speaking city of Daugavpils, in eastern Latvia, is more than 600 miles from the front line in Ukraine and entirely peaceful.

But her status as a Russian speaker with a Russian passport has made her collateral damage of the conflict as a target for suspicion and fear in Latvia. The small and vulnerable Baltic country is traumatized by past occupation by Russia and terrified that President Vladimir V. Putin might seek to “protect” Russian-speaking compatriots in the Baltics just as he has done in Ukraine.

Nina Marcinkevica in Daugavpils, Latvia, said she was shocked when she received an official letter saying she needed to leave the country.Credit…Katrina Kepule for The New York Times

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