Prominent Refugees, 10 February 1931
Laris Strunke, known as "the Painter of Gotland" because of his summertime studio there, lives and paints in the Swedish capital, Stockholm. As a 13-year-old refugee, son of renowned Latvian painter Niklavs Strunke, he fled his home country during the Soviet advance of 1943.
The Strunke family left Riga in the summer of 1944 and hid along the coast with other refugees until, in December, they found a boat. It was so overcrowded that many were forced to throw their belongings overboard. The family crossed the Baltic Sea and on November 10, 1944, arrived in Herrvik, a small village on the eastern coast of the Swedish Island of Gotland. A tin box of coloured pencils was the only personal possession that young Strunke was able to keep with him.
Strunke has lived in Sweden ever since. He continued to study art, which he had begun in Latvia, and attended the Art Academy of Stockholm. Today he is a renowned painter and his exhibitions have travelled to such places as Mexico, Budapest, Beijing, Canada and Australia. Strunke, who is a Swedish citizen, went back to Riga for the first time in 1989, when he organised an exhibition of his father's paintings.