Kristine is a native of Rezekne and a member of the political party ‘Progressive’ (Progresivie). She ran for a seat in the 2022 Latvian Parliament (Saeima) elections. As a young mother and actively involved in community activities, Kristine believes there is a greater need for reforms across the region to encourage the youth to build their career and lives in the regional centers.
According to Kristine, quite many people in Rezekne consume lot of Russian media in Latgale. Russian language is prominent, even many Latvians prefer to speak in Russian. This impacts the integration as many still don’t even know Latvian. For her, because of the poverty (Latgale is one of the poorest regions in Latvia) people are critical and disappointed in the Latvian government. Many people also live in Russian propaganda, because they still have access and watch prohibited Russian TV channels and use other media. Kristine thinks there should be an education reform that requires learning in one – Latvian – language starting from Kindergarten, which can bridge the language gap and also bring children together, mixing the historically segregated ethnicities. She also thinks a new Latvian state TV channel in Russian should be introduced for a specific terminated time to inform the older Russian speakers of events in Latvia and the world, providing objective information and fighting the propaganda of neighbouring Russia.
Many young professionals leave Rezekne as there is a lack of well-paid jobs in the Latgale region and shortage of houses. Kristine believes the local government should prioritise investing in education, creating jobs and building affordable housing. The security risk posed by pro Kremlin Russian speakers is the key political challenge in Rezekne. Kristine observed that a recent poll showed that in Latgale pro Kremlin and pro oligarch political parties received many votes. And because people feel neglected by the government they are starting to look for answers in another direction. She believes it is essential to build social equality and human well-being. When asked about the results of recent elections, she noted although the public support is growing, because of the conservative nature of the society her political party – Progressive Party did not receive as many votes. One of the main reasons for this is the absence of young voters in the region who would support new ideas.
However, although Latgale is the poorest region farthest from the capital Riga and bordering with 2 authoritarian neighbour countries Russia and Belarus, it is developing and the life here has been improving significantly. There are quite many people returning to region from the capital or from abroad, starting their businesses, building their future here. Kristine likes living in Rezekne and she can see not only the disparity with other regions of Latvia, but also how much Latgale region is changing. Russia’s war in Ukraine has opened eyes of many, especially young people and they being to understand that they have been living in illusory world created by Russian propaganda. Kristine thinks that Latgale region is on the right track and has a big potential, however it needs more targeted initiatives from the government to alleviate the social issues.