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Reactions and comments from How Long is Exile? readers:

Here are a few of the written comments I received, mostly from Latvian relatives & friends:

Thank you for your books. I will share the information about them with our friends–Latvians and Americans. . . (Dec. 9, 2015, Cleveland, OH).

I read your book. Oh, how similar are these impressions! (Elementary school classmate 60 years later).

May the love of God never leave you and continue granting you imagination for translating and writing our new and true life stories, which many await. (A1990s US immigrant from the collapsing Latvian SSR, 2016..

Thank you for your friendship! I respect your God-given talant with the written word. Write more! (5/27/16, a friend in Colorado Springs).

Wow! I am so proud of you! Beautifully written. Here, people in general refuse to fathom that freedoms could be taken away. Thank you for your book. (An American

relative, July 6, 2016).

I admire your talent and ability to arrange [the story]. Reading the books gave me much to remember, reflect, and learn. Thank you. (A cousin-in-law, 2016).

Now I know where Riga is! (A friend at a book signing Oct. 2016)

I finished the first book. It is written with your heart’s blood! Very important seemed to me Ilga’s and Gatis’ rebellion, which showed young people’s attitudes of those times towards their parents and society. Each generation comes forth with its impressions, thoughts, and convictions. Thanks! (Senior poet Indra Gubina, Canada, 2016).

Is this about her? Are you the same? [“her” refers to author’s recently deceased cousin and Tony’s wife].    (Dr. Anthony Infante, 2016).

…..I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your trilogy How Long is Exile?. . . I simply could not stop reading it! You mix history and fiction into one very compelling (and educational) story. . . . I also loved seeing the three photos of you, each from a different time in your life. . . I will recommend it to many other people. . . (From a note of an acquaintance I met at the swimming pool, summer 2018.)


I see Faulkner’s influence in Stahnke’s ability to show how events and times of historic moment form and move forward an individual’s walk through life and how, his/her most serious ambitions and sacred hopes may turn into meaningless foam and delusions. She achieves this by placing her heroine Milda in the first book of the trilogy: The Song and Dance Festival of Free Latvians as an adult who recalls her childhood and her quick escape from her homeland (age 13) with her actress aunt Alma (age 30). The escape was unexpected and frightening and marked the beginning of their exile, juxtaposing the innocent girl with her pragmatic, heartbroken aunt.

(Professor Emeritus of Languages & Literature, Latvia University, Riga, 2018).


I want to tell you how much I love, precisely because it is full of eloquent questioning and speaking into the spaces of silence, charting too the evolution of thinking, of growing, of discovery, of revisiting one’s past and what one thought one knew, how this can be both unsettling and also deeply liberating. Can I also just say that you have written some of the best love scenes I have read? In How Long is Exile, the section with Milda and Vanags during Midsummer is so intensely moving, raw and beautiful. The other thing that you captured so well, and I felt I learned from, was the way you described the confusion of war time, the fear of speaking up and why, especially from a child’s perspective.

(Dr. Inara Varzemnieks, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts. University of  Iowa, Iowa City, 3rd generation Latvian, author (among other publications) of Among the Living and the Dead: a tale of exile and homecoming on the War Road of Europe, W.W. Norton. Comments: 2017.)

Important events & festivals where I participated promoting How Long is Exile?

March 16-17, 2017:  23 international scientific conference at Liepaja Univ. Sponsored by Humanities and art faculty; The Humanitarian Institute of Kurzeme; Latvia University’s literature, folklore and arts institute.

June 30-July 3, 2017: All Latvian Song and Dance Festival in Baltimore, MD. Was invited to read an excerpt from HLE?. Read from Book 1, 9-10.

April 23, 2017: Book signing: Cleveland Latvian Book Club.

August 16, 2017:  Book signing in Summer  Camp Garezers, Three Rivers, MI

Sept 23, 2017                ~~~               Barnes & Noble, Fairview Hts, IL