Home' Greymouth Star : August 12th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Tuesday, August 12, 2014
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uLetters to the editor
1848 - Death of George Stephenson,
engineer who developed the first practical
steam locomotive, the Rocket.
1851 - Isaac Singer is granted a
patent on his sewing machine; The
schooner America wins a race that
helps launch the America’s Cup
1914 - Britain declares war on
1944 - Joseph P Kennedy Jr, eldest
son of Joseph and Rose Fitzgerald
Kennedy, is killed with his co-pilot when their
Navy plane blows up over England.
1953 - The Soviet Union detonates its first
1955 - Death of German novelist Thomas
1964 - Death of Ian Fleming, English author
and creator of James Bond.
1966 - The Beatles begin their final tour in
1982 - Death of US actor Henry Fonda.
1983 - Argentina releases British assets
seized during the Falklands war of 1982.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
King George IV (1762-1830); Robert
Southey, English author (1774-1843); Sir
Keith Murdoch, journalist and newspaper
owner (1885-1952); John Derek,
US producer-actor (1926-1998);
George Hamilton, US actor (1939-
); Mark Knopfler, British musician
with Dire Straits (1949-); Pete
Sampras, US tennis champion
(1971-); Casey Affleck, US actor
(1975-); Dominique Swain, US
“ Regrets are as personal as fingerprints. ”
— Margaret Culkin Banning, American writer
“If My people, which are called by My Name,
shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My
Face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will
I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin,
and will heal their land.” — 2 Chronicles 7:14
Station 3YZ will
move to the national
breakfast link and
the new commercial station 3ZA will come
on the air next Monday. Next month it will
move further into the national link and have
its hours extended to 11.20pm. 3ZA will be a
local programme with local presentation and
Station manager Mr F J Jacobs said:
“Although we shall be tied up with the national
link on Station 3YZ, we have been granted
considerable concessions to allow broadcasting
of our more popular programmes.” He said
there will be breaks to provide programmes of
Programmes to be retained will be listeners’
requests on a Saturday, Sunday hospital
requests, West Coast top 10, morning,
afternoon and evening serials.
A building which can boast of a long and
useful career is shortly to retire from active
ser vice. The manual training centre in High
Street which was once the nucleus of the old
Greymouth Technical High School, and is
currently used by district primary school pupils
in woodwork and cooking, is to be replaced.
A new centre is to be established on the
Canterbury Education Board’s recently-
acquired section adjacent to the Grey Main
Interest has rapidly grown in the rugby league
coaching school to be conducted here next
month by national advisory coach Mr C R
Mountford. The largest number of entries from
a club was received at last night’s meeting of
the West Coast Rugby League Board.
The Marist Club has sent 13 names for ward,
bringing the total to over 30.
uFood for thought
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he ‘House on the Corner’
was one of the most feared
places in Latvia during
Soviet times, but now
tourists are flocking to the
former KGB headquarters
in the capital, Riga, keen to uncover its
As Russia flexes its muscles in its
communist-era backyard, there is a
concerted drive here and in other
Baltic states once under Soviet control
to counter any attempts by Moscow
to whitewash the totalitarian past by
exposing its horrors.
Built in 1912, the vast property retains
traces of its art nouveau elegance, but a
grimy, weathered exterior lends it an eerie
Following the 1940 Soviet takeover, the
KGB secret police, or Cheka, set up its
headquarters in the building on what is
now Freedom Street, but was then called
Lenin Street. It was then that locals
started referring to the building using the
euphemism ‘the House on the Corner’.
Shuttered as the KGB was disbanded
after Latvia broke free from the crumbling
Soviet Union in 1991, it finally reopened
its doors to the public this summer with a
temporary exhibition as part of Riga’s year
as a European Capital of Culture.
In a dark hallway, visitors to the house
are greeted by a wooden box where paper
requests for information about prisoners
and denunciations of neighbours and
work colleagues were once deposited.
A ground-floor exhibition details KGB
crimes, while in the basement, cells that
once held prisoners have after many years
finally been opened to the public.
“The main reaction we get is shock,”
Aija Abens, one of the guides, said.
“Some people come, then decide not to
set foot inside. Some people break down
in tears. That ’s when we realise that they
or their relatives must have been held
Thousands of Latvians were interrogated
and tortured in the building, some of
them put to death behind its walls, and
Abens is visibly moved as she describes
the former execution chamber.
“It’s right by the door to the yard. A
truck would be parked outside with the
motor running to mask the noise. Then
the body would be put in the back and
driven away,” she says.
Later the KGB began killing their
victims elsewhere, so they converted the
execution cell into a kiosk where agents
could stock up on cigarettes.
“ We get visitors from Russia who think
it ’s all made up, but we also get Russian
visitors who say it has opened their eyes,”
Abens told AFP.
They have even had some visitors who,
she believes, once worked here.
“ We showed the KGB staff canteen on
one tour and a visitor said: ‘Yes, but the
food was good’. How could you know that
unless you were part of the staff ?”
A couple of floors above, the atmosphere
is very different.
The corridors have been freshly
painted a dazzlingly white and art
installations invite visitors to consider
abstract concepts of state power and
Several focus on the 60,000 Latvians
who were deported to Siberia on the
orders of Stalin, most in 1941 and 1947,
and many of whom never returned.
One piece, titled Latvian Suitcase, is
among the most powerful. It highlights
a question those exiled were forced to
consider: what would you take if the KGB
gave you two minutes to pack?
Suitcases, letters, lucky charms, teddy
bears, even a parcel of sand from a
spouse’s grave are strewn around a large
room. All the objects on show are original,
each item once packed in haste by people
who later found their way back home
against the odds.
Another installation uses a pair of
men’s German army boots to explore the
extraordinary life of Merija Grinberga,
a woman from a renowned Latvian high
society family who exchanged her high
heels for heavy boots in 1944 to rescue
items from the national museum slated
for destruction by the Soviet Red Army.
Studying one of the artworks is tourist
Melanie Carter, from Florida.
“Until I arrived in Latvia I knew very
little about the history. I’m impressed
by the effort, imagination and creativity
that has gone into this,” she said. “It ’s an
extraordinary project, given the building
was used for such a horrifying purpose.”
And it is this blood-soaked past that is
proving to be major headache for public
officials trying to find a future use for the
‘House on the Corner’ — nobody wants
to move into this other wise prime, city-
“Its dramatic history makes it
unattractive. Probably offices are best
suited to it,” says Baiba Strautmane,
who manages the building for the State
Property Agency. “ There have been
rumours of hotels, but that ’s unlikely.”
Pressure is growing for the building to
be converted into a permanent museum,
despite the fact Latvia already has a large
centre — the Museum of the Occupation
— focused on Soviet crimes.
Knuts Skujenieks, a writer and former
political prisoner who was once held here
accused of ‘anti-Soviet ’ activity, is among
those who support the museum idea.
“It ’s true the building’s reputation isn’t
very good, but I believe the city needs it
so it remembers,” he said.
“ You can’t escape history. I can’t
remember where everything was, but I
want to see the cell where I was held.”
Building gives up secrets
Prince Harry has recalled the “horrendous”
images he saw during two tours of Afghanistan
when he encountered children who had died
from roadside bombs and soldiers lying on the
The royal, who is a captain in the army, regularly
flew injured personnel and civilians to the hospital
at the Camp Bastion military base during his
second tour of the country when he ser ved as an
Apache helicopter pilot.
Writing in the Sunday Times, Harry recalled
flying home last year looking for ward to seeing
family, but said it was then that he was “hit ” by
the reality of war as he was joined on the plane by
injured and fallen soldiers.
“I had never seen it first-hand,” he wrote in the
“By ‘it’ I mean the injuries that were being
sustained largely due to improvised explosive
devices. Loss of life is as tragic and devastating
as it gets, but to see young lads — much younger
than me — wrapped in plastic and missing limbs,
with hundreds of tubes coming out of them, was
something I never prepared myself for.”
In his role as a pilot the prince said the memory
of having to use the code ‘Op vampire’ to let the
medical team know the casualty they had on board
would require a lot of blood still sends shivers
down his spine.
The staggering question of how people cope with
the trauma of war, especially those left without
limbs, was one Harry said played on his mind,
and eventually led him to set up an international
sporting competition for injured troops.
After a visit to a similar event, the Warrior
Games in America, Harry said he was inspired by
the efforts of amputees and others left with the
scars of war.
The Invictus games — aiming to showcase the
bravery and sporting prowess of more than 400
ser vicemen and women from 14 countries who
have been left wounded by war — will take place
next month at London’s Olympic Park.
The prince, whose Royal Foundation charity
supports the event, said money could only go so far
and the event was more about helping to redefine
individuals. — AAP
Prince Harry recalls the horrors of war
Prince Harry rests outside the cockpit of his Apache helicopter.
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