Viktors Bertholds – a Livonian, a fisherman, a healer

Viktors Bertholds on his confirmation day in 1939, he was a representative of the vast Bertholds’ family, who played an important role in the Livonian cultural space.

Viktors Bertholds – a Livonian, a fisherman, a healer.

Viktors Bertholds’ (1921–2009) own familiy was the last one to still speak Livonian on a daily basis, at least while his wife Marta (b. Liedāne, 1925–1994) was still alive, V. Bertholds was also one of whom Estonian and Finnish scholars visited and the last, with whom one could freely speak the native Livonian language on the coast.

On January 16, 2021, we commemorate Viktors Bertholds’ 100th anniversary. Largest part of his life Viktors Bertholds lived in Kolka. He joined the Livonian affairs in the more recent times, when there were few Livonian speakers, when each speaker’s value had grown greatly. In the early 1990s, Viktors and Marta taught the Livonian language to his colleagues. As long as he was able, on the first Saturday of each August Viktors was always present at the Livonian festival in Mazirbe.

Viktors Bertholds was born on January 16, 1921 in the family of Kārlis and Marija Bertholds in Vaide in Žonaki. For at least six generations, Žonaki was home to the vast and strong Livonian Berthold family, from where a number of important figures in the Livonian cultural history have come. Both with their brother Alfons Bertholds (Livonian poet, folklore narrator), growing up in a strictly Livonian family, they kept the Livonian language alive throughout their lives. It was the descendants of the Bertholds’ family who were the best native speakers of the Livonian language today.

Kārlis and Marija Bertholds with their eldest son Alfons in Vaide, Jonaki around the year 1920

Although on paper, the family of Viktors and Marta Bertholds’ was actually the last one on the coast which spoke Livonian to each other on a daily basis, both children did not learn the Livonian language. Daughter Āria Bertholde, who has moved to the United States with her daughter Baiba since 1995, recalled:

“We always spoke Livonian in our house on a daily basis. Even when parents did not want their children to understand what they were talking about. I wanted to learn the language. Now I know only a few words, and I remember a few songs. I thought I could read because I remember my mother teaching me how to read umlauts. When I asked my mother why she was not taught the language, mother said that it was an unrecognized and unauthorized language. “

Viktors and Marta Bertholds during a Livonian language class at Kolka Primary School in the early 1990s.

The summer of 2008 was the first when Viktors’ place on the bench at the Livonian Festival was left empty. Viktors Bertholds passed away at the age of eighty-eight on February 23, 2009. He is at rest in the Kolka cemetery.

Former inhabitants of Old Žonaki Viktors Bertholds and Paulīne Kļavina at the 50th anniversary of the Livonian National House in Mazirbe on August 5, 1989.

Resources used:

Šuvcāne B. „Sauc par Vaidi manu ciemu.” R., Latvijas avīze, 2015. 306.–311. pp.

Saruna ar Viktoru Bertholdu Kolkā 2003. gada augustā. Video recording. Reorded by LFK assistant Aldis Pūtelis.

Ārija Bertholdes’ letters to Baiba Šuvcāne 2014. gadā.


The National Research Programme project “Digital Resources for Humanities: Integration and Development”
Nr. VPP-IZM-DH-2020/1-0001