Vilis Lācis

Born: 12 May, 1904, as Janis Vilhelms Lacis, in Rinuzi, his father, Tenis Lacis, was a stevedore and his mother, Karlina Lacis, a fisherman's daughter. He legally changed his name to Vilis Lacis, in 1954.
During WW I his family evacuated to Siberia and in 1920-1921 he did his first writing: for the Latvian Communist newspaper: "Sibirijas Cina" (Siberian Struggle) When he returned to Latvia in 1921, it is possible he had already been recruited by the Soviet Secret Services.
In the 1920s and early 30s he workedas a manual laborer. He liked to go dancing and would always arrive at dances in a second-hand suit, as a result of which he earned the nickname: the "Vecmilgravja Dandy". He liked girls from "the higher social circles". In 1927 he married a school classmate of his, Marija Boota (Buta). Then they had a separate room in her parent's house, which made it easier for him to write. Soon after the marriage he participated in a strike and lost his job. In 1928 Vilis and Marija had their first child, Zigurts and in 1932, their second, Ojars.
Soon after the birth of his second son, his novel "Zveijnieku dels" (The Fisherman's Son) was published by Emilija Benjamin's publishing house and that launched V. Lacis to fame and financial security. Elegant, secretive as the sphinx (a contemporary description of him) he now lived a quiet, bourgeois existence and of course, continued to write intensively. And very few knew of his continued connection with the Reds.
In 1938, V. Lacis was hired directly by Emilja Benjamin's publishing house, Jaunakas Zinas. In his writing for the newspaper V. Lacis praised Latvian President Karlis Ulmanis, the 15 May 1934 Putsch and Emiljas husband, Anton Benjamin. But in his post-war novel "Vetra" (Storm), V. Lacis described his former benefactor with foul language.
In the summer of 1940, under the Soviet Occupation regime, V. Lacis the author finally showed his true colors when he became the Minister of the Interior (and therefore the Police Minister) in the Kirchenstein government – which was the (still nominally) independent Latvian government set up in June 1940, with Stalin's approval, as a transition between the old Latvian Government and the new Communist Latvian Administration. When the new Communist Government/Administration formally petitioned Stalin to incorporate the "Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic" in the "Union of Soviet Socialist Republics" (USSR), V. Lacis remained the local "Interior Minister".
He instantly turned his back on the person who started him on his success, Emilja Benjamin. In June 1941 he signed the order to have her shipped to Siberia to die like the rest.
Soon however, the Lacis family received their own tragedy. On the 3 October, 1940, V. Lacis youngest son was killed when he fell down an elevator shaft. Some say it was an accident, others, revenge and still others that the faulty lift was waiting for Vilis Lacis, himself.
While V. Lacis spent the World War II years in Moscow heading the non-existent "Latvian Soviet Socialist government", but his wife Marija and remaining son were sent to live elsewhere.
When V. Lacis returned to Riga on 19 October, 1944, he did so with a different woman: Velta Kalpina. On the 10th of November, 1944, in a secret session the High Court granted them a divorce. On the 18th of November, 1944, V. Lacis remarried, to the daughter of a family of revolutionaries (the announcements made a point of saying that), V. Kalpina. In 1945, the new family had a son, Leonid and in 1946 a second son, Juris. His wife Velta became a journalist and for many years worked for the Soviet magazine "Zvaigzne" (Star).
It also appears that immediately after the war, V. Lacis angled to get permission to live in the Benjamin House himself. But this the Soviet authorities did not give him, assigning him a much smaller house down the street instead. Apparently he was not satisfied with that house and later permanently maintained a room in a hotel at the other end of the same street (Juras Str.)
From 1940 until 1962 V. Lacis was a member of the USSR State Council (the Soviet "parliament") From 1940 until his death he was member of the Central Committee of the Latvian Communist Party. From 1952 until 1961 he was a candidate member of the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party. From 1946 until 1959 he was the Premier of the Cabinet of the "Latvian Soviet Socialist Republic". From 1954 until 1958 he was the Chairman of the Nationalities Committee, USSR State Council.
V. Lacis seemed to have truly made it; he had a family, glory, money, the illusion of power and all the privileges that came with being in the "Soviet elite". But, his health failed. Medical problems came in relentless waves: eye problems, rheumatism, diabetes, two strokes, gangrene and alcoholism. The "Chairman" regularly got drunk at work.
Vilis Lacis died of a heart attack on 6 February, 1966. Before that, he had lost a good part of his body to gangrene. It has been said, that when Emilija Benjamin realized that she would indeed be deported to the Soviet camps, she cursed Vilis and said that he should rot alive – which in a sense, he did. He is buried in the Mezakapi (Forest Cemetery) in Riga.
During his lifetime, V. Lacis wrote twenty novels, fifty-eight short stories and six plays as well as numerous newspaper articles. After the war, V. Lacis re-wrote his prewar works to conform to "proper socialist realism" as well as continued to write actively. His works were favorites of the Soviet regime and were translated into all the languages of the USSR.
Three of his novels were made into films, and one short story into an animated (cartoon) film. One was reworked as an opera (by M. Zarins) and another as a ballet (by R. Grinblats).