Latvian Community Volunteer Nominated for Governors Multicultural Award

Submitted by Margota Pukitis

Ints and Margota Pukitis on the grounds of Government House

Ints and Margota Pukitis on the grounds of Government House

On Tuesday 18th. February the ‘’Governors Multicultural Award” presentation ceremony was held in the gardens of Adelaide Government House. Over the years Australia has gained a reputation for being a nation that values the work done by volunteers as they save the country a lot of money as well as providing an invaluable service.

Ints Pukitis, from the Latvian community, was a finalist for this award in 2013. He was nominated by the Latvian Hall Co-operative for his work on the board from 1985 and his work as chairman from 2006 to 2013 and he continues to be an active member of the board.

Ints Pukitis was born in Latvia 1943 and arrived in Australia in 1949 after WW2 as a Displaced Person ( Refugee) and lived in various migrant hostels until finally settling in the family home in Richmond Adelaide. He is married with 2 children and 4 grandchildren.

Not everyone chooses to volunteer and I believe that not everyone is able to be a volunteer.  Volunteers, generally speaking, are people with qualities in their personality that make them a little unique. They seem to have a vision, a broader outlook of the world in which they live. This ability sometimes comes with age, their different experiences, which  they have acquired or even suffering and pain experienced in their lifetime.

Many Latvian migrants settled in Adelaide and for these people it was very important to ensure that their children receive a good education and continue to speak in their first language and not forget their unique culture. Hence the first Latvian Saturday school began in 1949. In the early fifties there were about 170 primary aged children attending the Saturday schools run by volunteer teachers. There was no hall or school they could use so church halls were places where the classes were held. In 1955 Ints’s dad Augusts Pukitis  with his son Ints were walking along Greenhill Road when on the corner of Clark Street there was  For Sale sign in front of an old large house on a substantial block of land. At that time both parents were active members on various committees as they understood that the only way they could foster and maintain the Latvian culture and language was by volunteering their services to the community. Augusts had an in depth discussion with his son Ints who was a student at the Latvian Saturday school and had joined the Latvian scout troop as a cub. Both saw the  merits of the location, and at the next  Latvian Association meeting a unanimous decision was made to purchase the property at 4 Clark street Wayville which was to become the cultural centre for the Latvian community.

Ints was happy because it was closer to his home and every Saturday morning he attended classes until he completed primary school, became a scout and joined the sports club playing volley ball and table tennis as well as attending folk dancing practices Friday nights. All this was made possible by the volunteers of the Latvian community and 60 years later the facility is still operating because of  newer group of volunteers. Over the years more property has been bought so that we now have a museum, a Lutheran Church a large function hall and library.

As I have already mentioned Ints had joined the Latvian scouts in 1952 as a cub. When he became a rover he also became a scout leader for the next 25 years, of which 11 years he was the chief leader of the Adelaide scout troop. He was also responsible for running the Rover training programme for all the Latvian scouts in Australia.

He lived in Latvia for 3 years in the 1990’s soon after Latvia got its independence, from the Soviet Union, where he taught English and in his spare time ran scout leaders training sessions and helped organised their activity programme. He received a Medal of Merit from the Scot Association of South Australia and is a life member of Scouting Intenational.

Ints also established two Lions Club International groups in Latvia which supported schools, kindergartens, aged care facilities, orphanages, student exchange programs and distributed aid to the needy. The voluntary work done by Ints was in a regional city Daugavpils not far from the Russian border. When he was offered a job in Latvia, he chose not to work in the capital city Riga, but preferred to go into a regional centre as large cities often tend to receive international aid more readily than regional districts.

Ints also worked as an ESL teacher for 3 years in China and during that time was instrumental in building a school in a remote mountainous area in southern China. With the help of the students from the Hunan Agricultural University and funding from the Australian Government a school for 200 students was built as the previous school was destroyed, by a landslide, and for some time the children had no access to education due to their geographical isolation in the mountainous region.

His many years of volunteering perhaps is a legacy left by his parents as role models, as well as his ability to see the bigger picture. This is clearly evident by his enthusiastic support of multiculturalism and he has been a strong advocate of working together harmoniously by interacting in co-operation with individuals and other organisations.

Ints is well known in the Latvian community and at the various Christmas functions when Father Christmas arrives with his sack of presents people for some reason, always comment about the strong resemblance between Ints and Father Christmas.