FORT SILL, Oklahoma (April 23, 2020) --Although Fort Sill’s Days of Remembrance luncheon was canceled this year, Sgt. 1st Class Refugio Johnson, Installation Equal Opportunity adviser, wanted the guest speaker, Marija Fine, to share her story.Amplifying this year’s theme “Liberation: Honoring the Past, Securing the Future,” Fine’s account is about losing a family, finding another, then rediscovering the first and joining the two together.Fine was born May 30, 1943, in Latvia, a country about the size of West Virginia. Located on the eastern side of the Baltic Sea, the country was a prize fought over by the Soviet and German armies for its open shipping ports.Fine’s family, the Platicis, were farmers during a time when the struggle to survive meant siding with either of the two opposing forces, or switching sides depending on who they believed would win or offer the most security.Fine said her family chose the Soviet Union, not because they considered themselves as communists, but because they believed Adolph Hitler could not win the war.But, when German forces regained control of their town, someone reported the Platicis family as Soviet sympathizers. Soldiers arrested Fine, her mother, grandmother and great uncle. Fine’s father and uncle evaded capture, but her grandfather was murdered by the Germans for supporting the Soviet cause.Shortly thereafter, Fine was separated from her family and that was the last she saw of her relatives for about 70 years.How an infant survived such a tumultuous time is a wonder, but Fine believes her blonde hair and blue eyes kept her from arrest and imprisonment. She said the Nazi party envisioned a new Germany whose population was woefully inadequate to meet its grand intentions.And so, German soldiers kidnapped blonde-haired, blue-eyed children no older than age 10 from surrounding countries and sent them to German orphanages.Fine said the Nazis stole about 250,000 young children who fit this ideal.“I was astonished to learn about lebensborn, and I believe that was the reason because other people in my family were sent to camps as enslaved labor,” she said.For the remainder of the war kidnapped children were shuttled around Latvia, Poland and finally Germany until the Germans surrendered.But, even as one war ended, another -— the Cold War — began and with it Fine’s survival remained uncertain. The United Nations, the Soviet Union, and her Latvian caretakers contended for where the children would be settled. She said the Americans and British countered the idea of returning the children to a totalitarian state even if they were born there.With the passage of the Displaced Persons Act of 1948, Fine and about 200 other children emigrated to the United States, part of an estimated 400,000 Europeans allowed entry into the U.S. and Canada.She was selected for adoption into the family of the Rev. John and Selma Futchs, a Lutheran pastor in Boulder, Colo.“I loved Colorado. That first Christmas there was snow on the ground, and the people of the church were wonderful in how they welcomed me, this refugee from the war in Europe, and gave me all sorts of clothes and had parties for me.”Speaking of her new mother, Fine said it was love at first sight, though as she matured she drew closer to her father. Early on the couple worked hard to help her assimilate into her new life.“They really made an effort my first summer to teach me phonics, which led me to be able to spell and to speak the language,” said Fine. “That was a real problem for some of the Latvian children who were older and couldn’t adjust to the school they were in.”She also credited her adoptive parents with encouraging her to seek out her birth family.“I really honor my parents for that, starting first with keeping my name,” though they altered it slightly, changing the “j” to a “y” to avoid confusion in pronunciation. “They told me, ‘Your father and mother lost you, but they were good people, and we want you to be proud of your Latvian heritage.”Fine said she didn’t know much even into her college years of her Latvian heritage adding that early searches revealed fabricated stories that reflected the Cold War era.These tended toward, “Your mother died in childbirth, but your father continued to fight the communists,” she said.She said a bachelor’s degree in history from Midland University prepared her for the search to find her birth family.In 2014, she decided to go back to Latvia, but before leaving, she went to the Latvian Embassy in Washington, D.C., and asked if they might help her find any information about her parents. Despite only being able to provide her parents’ last name and the city of Riga, where she was kept in an orphanage, in two days she got a response with the full names of her parents and their birth dates.She then turned to a researcher from the American Latvian Association who through several calls and conversations found Fine’s Aunt Leonora, her father’s only surviving sister.“To have that personal link back to someone who knew me as a newborn child was very wonderful,” she said.Although the two women didn’t share a common language, they communicated through Leonora’s son. Fine learned of her father’s many attempts to locate her, which culminated with searches by Red Cross representatives from several countries. Ultimately, he learned his daughter was alive, but due to the Cold War, no specific information on Fine’s whereabouts was shared.“I learned that my parents loved me and that we all had a love for singing and playing musical instruments,” said Fine, who added her family proved to be similar to the Austrian Von Trapp family of “Sound of Music” fame.Fine returned to Latvia in 2014 and saw where she grew up, her church and an orphanage she lived in.She wrote a book of her search for her family called “Wide Eyes” that was published in 2016 and subsequently published in Latvia. Through the book many family members learned more about the war years and various relatives’ involvement. Fine has returned twice to learn more and strengthen bonds with her family.“The book represented the skills I acquired through my education to tell the story I didn’t know for 70-some years. I was so glad I could tell my family’s story because they weren’t educated, they were a farming family and didn’t know a lot about what went on,” she said.Speaking of her early years of life, Fine said she was fortunate.“I moved from one safety net to another in the midst of all this chaos and violence. I was loved by my own parents and the ones who adopted me so I could live a life so many others never could experience,” she said.