About

Kalamazoo Latvian Community

Latvian Church

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The current church is a 1995 unification of the St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church (founded on December 1, 1949) and the Kalamazoo Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church (founded on August 12, 1950). The congregations spiritual leader is Pastor Aija Graham who began her duties on January 5, 2015.

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Worship services are conducted in Latvian due to the insufficient number of English only speaking members. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, and other special occasions can be conducted in Latvian and/or English as needs warrant.

Latvian Center

The Kalamazoo Latvian Center, built in 1987,  is located next to the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The building serves as the fellowship hall of the church and activity center for all Latvian social and cultural activities. Recent activities include: concerts, plays, Latvian Independence Day celebrations, Annual Rummage Sale and Christmas Bazaar. The building also provides space for the Kalamazoo Latvian School, where youth in grades K-8 have an opportunity to learn the language, culture, history and geography of their heritage.

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Latvian school

The Kalamazoo Latvian School is currently undergoing a transformation to new leadership and plans to improve educational opportunities for learning the Latvian Language and culture.

Garezers

Kalamazoo is just a short drive to Garazers Latvian Center. This center offers the opportunity to meet with Latvians not only from throughout the United States but from throughout the entire world. It is an avenue to explore and learn the Latvian language, culture, history, and arts that is seldom found outside of the mother country. If you are of Latvian ethnic origin, Garazers is a well recognized and beloved destination. Latvian children that have grown up in the Midwestern portion of the United States have Garazers as part of their ethnic pedigree.

History

Latvians began arriving in Kalamazoo in the early 1950’s due in part to the sponsorship of local Lutheran churches and the Dziemsu Vairogs men’s and women’s choirs. It soon became a haven for many displaced Latvian intellectuals, writers, and artists. By the late 1950’s and early 1960’s,there were two Latvian churches, a Latvian school, Boy and Girl Scout groups, several choirs, various literary groups, Daugavas Vanagi, and the Kalamazoo Latvian Association.

By the late 1960’s Western Michigan University began offering a Latvian Studies Program that attracted many students during the summer session then later on a year around basis.

In 1986 the Latvian Center was constructed adjacent to the now unified Latvian Church at 122 Cherry Hill Street in Kalamazoo. This multi-use, two level building became the home for the Latvian preschool program Pasacina and the Kalamazoo Latvian School on the lower level and a large hall with stage, dressing rooms, and adjacent kitchen and lobby areas on the upper level.

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