"Education was an important part of our lives, so I wanted to fund a scholarship in memory of Īra," emphasizes American Latvian, Vaira Inta Pelēķis-Christopher, a long-standing patron of the University of Latvia (UL), who will support the most talented linguist from the UL Faculty of Humanities.

Īra Kuhn-Bolšaitis Memorial Scholarship will be awarded for the first time in the academic year 2019/2020 to a student at the Faculty of Humanities reading either French or German Philology at the University of Latvia. The scholarship will amount to $ 3 000.

Vaira – dedication to philanthropy

Scholarship patron, philister of the student corporation "Dzintra", Dr. med. Vaira I. Pelēķis-Christopher (1936) was born in Latvia, but along with her family was forced to leave for Germany as a refuge until 1950, when she moved to the United States of America. There she received education in French philology, and subsequently she studied in Geneva, Switzerland, receiving a doctorate in medicine. After her return to America she specialized in pathology. Currently, she lives in Washington State and is a board member of the UL Foundation’s partner organization “Friends of the University of Latvia” (established in 2012).

Vaira I. Pelēķis-Christopher became a patron in appreciation of the assistance she herself received from good people when in need. Vaira supports the UL Foundation already since 2006, when she donated to “Ceļamaize” scholarship for the most talented first year students. Support for Latvian youth is bestowed in memory of her father Kārlis Pelēķis, who was the first to receive a higher education in the family and was proud of it. Vaira believes that any graduate of the University of Latvia who earns a living with the obtained knowledge should remember their university by donating to it.

After retiring and leaving her employment in the field of pathology, Vaira enthusiastically became involved in several charity events and activities, both in exile and in local organizations. Vaira generously supports the work of the exile church, the Latvian Occupation Museum, Scout Movement, the Latvian National Library and other organizations.

“I am also very actively involved in Baltic Studies Program at the University of Washington, which is the only university in the USA that teaches all three Baltic languages, history and culture. This year the program celebrated its 25th anniversary. We are proud to have this opportunity.”

Vaira is personally pleased to have established a Latvian book reader group in Seattle. About 20 participants attend it, thankful for Vaira’s efforts and organizing the meetings. Moreover, every time the participants who are present donate to either Baltic Studies Program or the Latvian Occupation Museum. The group has been around for over 18 years.

Īra – German and French language professor

Īra Kuhn-Bolšaitis (19372018) born in Latvia to a forest-guard Jānis Ameriks and teacher Irma Amerika. She fled Latvia with her parents in 1944. After several years in Märbeck refugee camp in Germany they emigrated to the USA and settled in New Jersey. She studied in Rutgers University Douglass Residential College, where in 1959 she received a bachelor’s degree in German language and literature. She continued the studies at the University of Kansas, receiving master’s degree in 1962, and doctoral degree in 1971 with specialisation in comparative literature. From 1962 to 1963 she studied at the University of Tübingen, Germany. During the studies, she received multiple scholarships, including the Fulbright scholarship. 30 years of her life (19671997) she taught French and German-French comparative literature at the University of Rhode Island.

Īra had two children – Bernhard (literature professor) and Nicholas (computer science analyst) from her first marriage with Professor Reinhard Khan. After passing away of her spouse, Īra married Pēteris Bolšaitis in 1987. The family moved to Latvia in 1997. Īra was the golden filister of student corporation “Rainbow”. Those who knew her, described Īra Kuhn-Bolšaitis as an example for humanity – an intelligent, enthusiastic, family-focused, dedicated, determined, positive and generous personality.

Everlasting friendship

Īra was my best friend throughout life,” tells Vaira un continues, – “after we met in Germany in the refugee camp, we came to America on the same ship in the April of 1950. Our families settled in New Jersey, where we met often, and later we both studied in Douglass College, therefore continued to meet up, when we studied in Europe.”

After exchanging the marriage wows with their spouses, both friends changed their place of residence – Vaira moved to the West coast, while Īra stayed on the East coast. Still, their communication remained very close, both frequently wrote to each other, called, and used every opportunity to meet. Even more so – both became godmothers to each other’s sons. When Īra moved to Riga, Vaira visited her every year and supported her during hard times.

“We had a lot of interests in common, including household things, relationships with people, literature, culinary, traveling, Latvian ‘things’, the list could go on and on. I can’t remember a single time when we had argued,” remembers Vaira. “We could trust each other one hundred percent. Unbelievably, because by nature we were absolute opposites – Īra was the quieter, more balanced, more organized, more patient, whereas I – the louder, more explosive, more impulsive, always optimistic.”


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