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Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) and the Icelandic University of Akureyri have implemented a joint Nordplus project on the Latvian community in Iceland, contributing to better perception of migration, causes for migration and its importance for the society of today.

"On June 2017, eight RSU communication, multimedia and photography students and I went on an expedition to several cities of Iceland to meet with Latvian expatriates living there and to record their stories and life perception”, the associate professor at RSU Faculty of Communication Ilva Skulte remembers how it all started.

In all, the researchers group spent eight days in Iceland, devoting half of the time to meeting people in Reykjavik, followed by a trip to Akureyri in the Northern part of Iceland.


Photo: Renāte Šnore

We organised our activities in the form of group work, which made it possible to conduct interviews, have focus group discussions and film simultaneously. “By using various forms of media, we managed to interview over 20 Latvians who shared their experiences of life, work, family and culture in Iceland, revealed the causes for moving and highlighted the positive, negative and surprising aspects of northern life”, project participants explained about the way the research was organised.

The versatile experiences were caught on camera by two graduates of the study programme Photography Adelīna Darviņa and Renāte Šnore and a current student of the programme Linda Ansone. Video interviews were conducted by a graduate of the study programme Multimedia Communication Liliāna Sustrupe and a student of the programme Kristaps Pēkalis. Conversations with Latvians living in Iceland were conducted and their stories written down by graduate of the study programme Journalism Elīna Vilciņa, Assoc. Prof. Ilva Skulte and by graduate of the study programme Photography Aleksandra Rosa. Graduate of the master’s study programme Communication and Media Studies Līga Felta collected materials and developed a blog which created the textual material of the study.

Due to the fact that the Latvian community in Iceland is not registered in any database, the interviewees were found by making enquiries among friends and acquaintances and even by addressing unknown people via Facebook. The study covered Latvians living in Reykjavik, Akureyri and Dalvik where we managed to meet the highest number of expatriates.


Photo: Adelīna Darviņa

"Already on the next day following arrival we had scheduled several meetings, including with the organisers of the Midsummer celebration in Reykjavik and the founder of the Latvian school in Iceland," the project participants share their experience in the blog Leduszeme (Land of Ice) which is the result of the trip to Iceland.

While staying in Iceland, we received valuable assistance from professor of the University of Akureyri Markus Hermann Meckl who gives lectures and classes on communication and media and is also studying the experience of immigrants in Akureyri. "His knowledge on the field and helping hand in finding Latvians living in Iceland was extremely valuable for our project. The professor gave us valuable hints regarding persons to be addressed in Akureyri and Dalverik and individuals who could give a special added value to our project.”


Photo: Adelīna Darviņa

The outcomes of the project Latvians in Iceland were presented on 20 February 2018 at Kalnciema Quarter and are available on the blog Leduszeme, written by students of the RSU Faculty of Communication and contain interviews, photos, stories and a travel diary. The project presentation also contained a visualisation of the project displayed in the form of a photography exhibition, capturing the landscape, everyday life and Latvians in Iceland by Adelīna Darviņa, Renāte Šnore and Linda Ansone. Whereas anthropologists from the Department of Communication Studies (lecturers from the Master’s study programme Social Anthropology Agita Lūse and Ieva Puzo, student and Latvian expatriate from Iceland Adelīna Darviņa and social worker Zane Brikovska) held a discussion on the role of migration in the modern world.

"During the discussion, the anthropologists and students were attempting to find out whether the study outcomes are consistent with migration stereotypes and discussed the reasons why migration occurs, " associate professor Ilva Skulte explains the purpose of the discussion panel.

Gundega Šķēle, who works in tourism in Iceland and was interviewed by us, maintains that, "Migration is part of the current reality. It is normal that we travel and move from one place to another. It would be silly to think that someone is the owner of his country or that your identity can be taken away. It is you who can lose your identity!”

In April Icelandic students will pay a return visit to Latvia to study the life of their expatriates living in Latvia.


Photo: Renāte Šnore