The “Garden of Destiny” project of the Koknese Fund
There is no national memorial in Latvia to symbolise the losses which the Latvian people have experienced during the last 100 years. The Garden of Destiny will be a national and pan-European project, and it is being established with the help of the people of Latvia on the Koknese Island in the middle of the Daugava River. This will be a cultural and historical memorial for all of those Latvians who were lost during the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century. The Garden of Destiny project began in the year when Latvia celebrated the 90th anniversary of its independence, and the plan is to finish it by the time the 100th anniversary rolls around in 2018.
On December 18, 2008, President Zatlers met with representatives of the council of the Koknese Fund, expressing his support for the Garden of Destiny and accepting the role of patron for the project.
Money for the Garden of Destiny is being raised through a fundraising project which began in March 2009. As patron of the project, the President was the first donor. He received a special donation pin in recognition of this fact.
On May 23, 2009, President Zatlers, Mrs Lilita Zatlere and their son, Kārlis Zatlers, attended the concluding event of that year’s Forest Days in Koknese, where the Garden of Destiny is to be established. The President and his family were joined by several dozen representatives of the Young Guard, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, the Koknese High School, the Latvian forestry sector, the Latvian Association of Officers and the Latvian Association of the Politically Repressed, and others. They cleaned up part of the forest on the island, picked up rocks and roots, cleaned up an alleyway of apple trees that were planted the previous year, and planted new linden and oak trees. More than 300 volunteers took part in all.
While at the event, the President had this to say: “Big work usually starts with someone’s dream. Once our dream was an independent Latvian state, and the dream came true. People enshrined their history by creating the Cemetery of the Brethren and the Freedom Monument. Those, too, were projects which began as someone’s dream. Today, I would like to thank those who are dreaming about the Garden of Destiny, which could be an excellent gift for Latvia on its 100th birthday.”
On August 23, 2009, President and First Lady Zatlere took part in a Latvian Television project called “For the Garden of Destiny!” They helped to plant an alleyway of apple trees and to create places for campfires for the evening part of the event. President Zatlers sang with the musician Renārs Kaupers and young people from the “Young Cavalry” movement to inspire people to work actively. The President said that the main idea for the Garden of Destiny is our heritage: “We have to leave more than just our genes for future generations,” he said. “We must also leave behind our cultural heritage and our morals. We must leave behind a material heritage and our country.” Thinking about the importance of the park for the Latvian people, President Zatlers added: “We appreciate the Freedom Monument today, and in future, people will also appreciate the Garden of Destiny.”
On January 12, the President convened a meeting at the Rīga Castle for representatives of the Koknese Fund. The general director of Latvian Television, Edgars Kots, was also there, because LTV is the leading informational supporter for the project. Representatives of the fund discussed what was done at the Garden of Destiny in the previous year and what their plans were for 2010. Work on an amphitheatre will begin this year, and that will be the biggest project. The President called on the fund to use volunteers, allowing anyone who wants to help in establishing the Garden of Destiny to take part in the process.
A fundraising event for the “Garden of Destiny” project was held at the Small Guild on March 21, 2011. The distinguished Latvian pianist Vestards Šimkus performed in concert, and artworks by Latvian artists were auctioned off. The aim of the event was to encourage Latvian businesspeople to take part in the implementation of the project, and all of the funds that were raised were contributed to the “Garden of Destiny” project itself. President Valdis Zatlers and First Lady Lilita Zatlers attended the concert and auction. President Zatlers thanked all of the people who have helped to implement the project and encouraged everyone to continue to be just as selfless and active in ensuring that the “Garden of Destiny” will become a place which symbolises our nation’s destiny – one where people can dream their own dreams and those of their nation, joining together to gain confirmation of the vision which speaks to the eternal future of the Latvian state.