Rebuilding Post-War Britain: Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian refugees in Britain, 1946-51

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Pen and Sword, Jun 30, 2017 - History - 264 pages
'Germany wasn't really a place for settling in, because after the war it was pretty devastated, and there wasn't really a chance to start again, so I thought Id come to England. It was a case of people between 18 and 50 and you had to be fit because it was mainly physical work. For men, it was mines and agricultural work and brick factories and women, mainly textiles.'

'We were thinking it was temporary. We were thinking the war would restart with the west and the east, and that the west would win, and we would be going home. But, it wasn't like that.'

After the Second World War, thousands of Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian refugees, uprooted by war and conflict in their homelands, were recruited from Displaced Persons Camps in Germany to fill labor shortages in Britain. This unknown episode in Britain's immigration history is brought to life in this book, through interview extracts and documentary sources. Women were the first recruits to the so-called European Volunteer Worker Schemes, in which 25,000 Baltic men and women came to Britain between 1946 and 1951, to work in hospitals, textiles, agriculture, coal mining and other undermanned areas of industry. Initially regarding their stay in Britain as temporary, a majority of these Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian men and women remained in Britain their whole lives. Recently joined by more migrants from the Baltic States, this book tells the story of Britain's Baltic communities, from the earliest accounts of their arrival in Britain to the present day.

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1 A Wonderful Life Growing Up in the Interwar Homelands
2 Life was nothing then Life meant for nothing War and Displacement 19391945
3 We were in heaven Life in the DisplacedPersons Camps
4 A valuable addition to our manpower The Recruitment of Latvians Lithuanians and Estonians for labour in Britain
5 Ive never seen chimneys like it Initial Experiences in Britain
6 We got disorientated for quite a long time The 1950s
7 Ive got used to being here 19601985
8 We were living in the past The impact of homelandindependence on the Latvian Lithuanian and Estonian communities in Britain
9 This is our home now The migration of Latvians Lithuanians and Estonians to Britain since 2004
Epilogue Rebuilding PostWar Britain The Contribution of Latvians Lithuanians and Estonians

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About the author (2017)

Dr Emily Gilbert gained a PhD from the University of Sheffield for her research about the Baltic communities in Britain, later published as Changing Identities: Latvian, Lithuanians and Estonians in Great Britain. She also holds a Masters Degree in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Birmingham, and a Degree in History from the University of Newcastle. She has held research positions at the Universities of London and Newcastle, as well as research and policy roles in charities and local government. For further information about her work on the Baltic communities in Great Britain, see her website:

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