Ojārs Vācietis and birds

"Every proper person needs to have knowledge about biology at least at the level of a university course," Vācietis once said.

Ojārs Vācietis, 1977. Photo by Gunārs Janaitis.

The home and garden of Ojārs Vācietis, 2011. Photo by Ints Sedlenieks

Early in 1960, Ojārs Vācietis and his wife, Ludmila Azarova, moved into their new home at Lielā Altonavas Street 19.  They did not enter the building at first, instead walking through the snowy yard.  In a berry bush they spotted four robins, and they took it as a sign to say that they were there for good.

The book "Latvian Birds" on Vācietis' desk.

Ojārs Vācietis, not an ornithologist, of course, but he did love to watch birds.  The 1936 book “Latvia’s Birds” was always on a corner of Ojārs’ desk.

After taking longer walks, Vācietis always wrote down the birds he saw on small (10×17 cm) pieces of paper:

Daily notes from Vācietis on January 6, February 19 and March 2

January 6: Tits, sparrows, pigeons, ravens, black starlings, crows, gulls

February 19: Tits, sparrows, a black starling, pigeons, crows, gulls, ravens and wild ducks!!! (5), and one cat.

March 2: Sparrows, pigeons, tits, two wild ducks (at Arkādija and Mārupīte), ravens, bullfinches, crows

Ojārs Vācietis` desk, 1993. Photo by Leons Balodis,

Vācietis fed the birds, too.  During the first winter he took a toy bus from his young son, Žanis, and turned it into a bird feeder.  A full bus of birds.  He put the feeder outside his office window so that he could watch the birds while working.  A few days later though, the poet brought the feeder to the other side of the house, because he could not concentrate, write and create new things.

A wild apple tree outside the window of Vācietis' flat, November 1993. Photo by Uldis Briedis

Outside the living room window of the Vācietis home was a wild apple tree.  The apples were small, hard and not particularly tasty, but Ojārs would not allow anyone to chop the tree down.  “The birds need something to eat,” he would say, because the golden apples remained on the tree until early spring.

Vācietis with a baby sparrow, late 1950s. Photo by Ludmila Azarova

Author: Mārtiņš Bērziņš, The Ojārs Vācietis Musem.

Materials used from the collection of the Ojārs Vācietis Museum.