In July 1992, my husband, my son and I set off from Tallinn to Riga after completing our leprosy work in Estonia. Our mini-van was empty since we had delivered all goods and items that we had taken with us from Dinslaken to leprosy patients in Estonia. Our journey from Latvia to Lithuania was merely an informational trip.
We arrived at the Leprosarium Talsi, located approximately 3 km from the town of Talsi, without any difficulty.
Dr. Janis Smit, the medical doctor in charge, was not to be found. A nurse informed us that he also worked in the hospital, however, we could not find him there either.
So we visited the grounds of the Leprosarium on our own. A Baptist Church, built in 1938 and transformed into a museum of leprosy in 1945, was the central point. It had been the basic idea to document the history of leprosy people and protect this documentation from being ravaged by invading Russians troops. 

In the chancel, the picture painted in by the famous Latvian painter and writer Zanis Sunins in 1938 was displayed showing Christ among leprosy people. In the front part of the church two show cases displayed moulages (wax models of abnormal body parts). These moulages were made in Riga in the 1950s. They clearly show how cruel the deformations of leprosy people were only a few decades ago. There were also some maps including statistic data about the prevalence of leprosy in Latvia .

In the meantime, we had succeeded in speaking to the medical doctor in charge. He gave us a lot of information not only about the 25 leprosy patients of the leprosarium but also about the history of leprosy in Latvia. He agreed to accompany us to the patients’ rooms. However, some of the patients were suddenly untraceable. Mr . Smits explained that leprosy people were extremely shy and avoided strangers. He also told us that within the last years, only a few new patients had come for an examination. The last patient was a young woman with deformations in her face. Unfortunately, we could not talk to this patient. According to Mr. Smit, the critical economic situation of Latvia after the dissolution of the USSR had lead to an impoverishment of the population.

He assured us that at the time of our visit he had sufficient medicine at his disposal. Another visit to Talsi was planned.



For economic reasons, the leprosarium Talsi was closed in 2006. The patients have found alternative accommodation and care. Even Dr. Janis Smits, the former leprologist, who is now working as a medical doctor in a hospital, does not have any contact with them.