By Jim Nowlan
Matiss Klava, 24, spoke recently to the Stark County Genie Society about his journey from his home in Aluksne (about 10,000), Latvia, to a new home with wife Nicole (Tisdell) in Toulon. I missed that event, so interviewed Matiss in my office.
Latvia is a small country of 2 million located on the Baltic Sea, between Estonia and Lithuania. I am guessing most Latvians are somewhat like Matiss, blond, blue-eyed, very respectful and polite.
His father Valtz is an engineer turned entrepreneurial businessman. Mother Santa is a music teacher.
Matiss didn’t plan to study abroad, but his father had always wanted to attend The Principia, a Christian Scientist college. The school sits above the tiny town of Elsah, on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, actually a bit west of St. Louis. I have been there. Quite picturesque.
So, Dad encouraged son to think about coming to the U.S. As an 8th grader, Matiss attended a four-week camp in the woods of Pennsylvania, and then returned as a counselor, and then to The Principia for his college education.
Matiss met Nicole at college. You may have heard Nicole sing and play piano at the Bistro. She is quite talented, as is her father Frank, and maybe mother Carol (I’ll ask next time I see Carol).
The couple were married at Bishop Hill, where Nicole continues to work as an events planner for that colony and also for other clients. Matiss is a financial adviser for Edward D. Jones.
Latvia is big on arts and culture, Matiss tells me. Every four years, Latvia holds a huge song and dance festival, with as many as 100,000 people participating at the same festival.
“The event is quite patriotic, emotional,” says Matiss. The next festival comes up next year. Matiss thinks this is an uplifting tradition that we in the U.S. should consider.
Matiss is impressed with the higher education offerings in the U.S. “Here in the U.S. the level of education is better matched with the available jobs and salaries,” he says.
People have lived in what is Latvia for millennia, yet it only became a formal nation in 1918, after World War I. For centuries, the big powers of Russia, Sweden, Germany, Poland, respectively, controlled what is today Latvia.
Matiss says Toulon reminds him of small towns in his country, but instead of corn and beans, Latvians grow potatoes, rye, wheat, cabbage, flax, and raise livestock.
The Latvians are devoted to making a family affair of weekend saunas (I think of them as fancy steam rooms), where boiling water is poured over rocks to generate steam, which penetrates the body. Sounds like a nice tradition.
Matiss has two brothers and two sisters. I saw a photo of his family taken at his wedding to Nicole. They are all quite attractive.
Best wishes in your new home in Stark County, Matiss.