Pēteris Alunāns, engaged in his hobby. In 2019, Pēteris took pictures of 16 football games for the Football School METTA. Photo: Andris Kozlovskis.

The Alunāns’ Family Scholarship has enabled scholarship recipients to obtain higher education and fulfil the dream of starting studies at the University of Latvia (UL). The scholars have figuratively called this scholarship a gift of wings that enable to soar.  

The story of these scholarships started around 2000Transcending a mere financial support for studies, Pēteris Alunāns Scholarship is a close, friendly and strong bond between the long-term UL Foundation patron, Latvian Pēteris Aleksandrs Alunāns from the United States, and numerous scholarship recipients. It is a, wholehearted philanthropy that arises when a person has been raised in devotion to good deeds.

To help strangers

For years, Latvians living in exile had supported family members in Latvia. Less than 20 years ago, a decision was made to establish the Alunāns’ Family Scholarship. “We decided to support young unknown people in Latvia who had become orphans or were in a very difficult financial situation. First year, we were looking for potential students who wanted to study at the University of Latvia but could not do so because of difficulties,” remembers Pēteris A. Alunāns. The first student supported by the Alunāns’ family began her studies at the UL in 2001.

Pēteris lovingly calls all of his scholarship recipients his goddaughters. "The Alunāns’ Family Scholarship is a steppingstone for young students. The scholarships are for bachelor’s studies. I am delighted and pleased that all of my goddaughters have continued their studies also in the master’s degree program. I am proud of their achievements!" comments the patron. Goddaughters of Pēteris Alunāns are Elita, Jakaterina, Kristīne, Arita, two Zanes, Arta Paula and Deimante. Two UL students are currently completing their final theses, while one continues her undergraduate studies. The rest have already embarked upon their careers in Latvia.

Patron behind the scenes

While looking at the activities of the US East Coast compatriots on the web or other sources, with the photographs showing Pēteris Alunāns are scarce. That is only natural – he loves to photograph and has absorbed by this art since an early age. His professional background is also connected to the work of a photographer in Baltimore. He frequently captures Latvian events in the Washington area, as well as various activities at the Latvian school and summer camps. He has also photographed events at the Lithuanian and Estonian Embassies. Pēteris enjoys being involved in activities organized by the Latvian Embassy. P. Alunāns’ photos have been published in newspapers and he has had several solo exhibitions.

Alunāns obtained a master's degree in biology and developed his career as a scientist and a process and project engineer. Married with Barbara Yano Alunāns (1943). Their son, Aleksandrs Yano Alunāns was born in the US, where also earned a master's degree, but currently he lives and works in Riga and spends everyday life in a sporting spirit – he is a football coach at METTA, the largest football school in the Baltics. Just like his dad, he enjoys music and photography. Pēteris and Barbara are frequent guests in Latvia, where they visit their son, see goddaughters and numerous Latvians, whom they have met in the US.

Latvians in Baltimore

Although his entire life was spent in a foreign country, Pēteris A. Alunāns perceives himself as a true Latvian. His Latvian is abundant, and he wears the Namejs ring, symbolizing Latvian independence, friendship and trust. His father, Aleksandrs Alunāns (1913–2001) was born in Lithuania, but spent his early years in Rēzekne, Daugavpils and Jēkabpils. His mother Milda (née Balodis) (1907–2002) comes from Krustpils – both met and formed a family in Latvia before World War II, in 1938. Pēteris’ sister Tatjana Marija (1940–2003) was born only a few months before the occupation of Latvia. In 1944, the family went to Germany as refugees. At the end of the war, Pēteris parents' family had settled in a refugee camp where his father set up a small jewellery workshop. There, at the refugee camp in Bad Reburg, Pēteris Aleksandrs was born in 1947. Soon they arrived in Maryland, on the east coast of USA. Aleksandrs Alunāns was a well-known jeweller in Gaŗezers, USA. His amber and silver jewellery adorns many Latvians in America, Canada and other countries around the world. His artwork has received many awards. Still today, direction signs and memorial plaques mark the locations in Gaŗezers. He had set up a workshop at his own expense in Gaŗezers, where he taught young people to make jewellery. Pēteris, along with his son Aleksandrs Yano, established the Alunāns’ Family Scholarship, implementing the idea of ​​Pēteris’ father Aleksandrs Alunāns and honouring his memory.

Pēteris Alunāns has been involved in Baltic-related activities in Baltimore since 1965. He participated in local Estonian and Latvian ensembles and choirs as a musician, enrolled in Lithuanian national dance events. Moreover, he performed at the Baltic Song and Dance Festival, where he represented Latvians in Milwaukee, Toronto and Cleveland, twice in Chicago, where he took part in dance performances of both Latvians and Lithuanians, representing three countries in Baltimore, and travelled with the Estonian collective to Stockholm. For the first time, he visited Latvia in 1977.

For years keeping in touch with the Balts and honouring their culture, he has developed a close relationship with many people in these countries. “A couple of years ago I decided to give our family scholarships to Lithuanian and Estonian students, as well. Currently a student from Vilnius University is receiving support, but I hope to help an Estonian student soon, too,” the patron shares his future aspirations.

Pēteris Alunāns promotes Latvia in the USA

“Patron Pēteris Alunāns and his family are always responsive and caring. Whenever the representatives of the UL and the UL Foundation visit the United States, he takes care of the versatility of the meetings and helps to address and bring together more and more compatriots living there, presenting the achievements of the University of Latvia and the UL Foundation. Several times during our visits, we have stayed at the Alunāns’ Family summer cottage in Baltimore. During these visits, Pēteris Alunāns has hospitably taken care of every aspect, even personally taking the has readily UL representatives to meetings with the local American Latvians. In Washington, during the annual European week, Pēteris Alunāns is brimming with inspiration – besides representatives of the Embassy of the Republic of Latvia he speaks to several thousand visitors about study opportunities at the University of Latvia”, Executive Director of the UL Foundation Laila Kundziņa shares her experience of cooperation with the patron.

About the University of Latvia Foundation

Since 2004, the UL Foundation provides an opportunity to patrons and cooperation partners to support both the University of Latvia and other leading higher education institutions of our country, thereby investing in the future of Latvia. The priorities of the UL Foundation are to support the most outstanding, dedicated students and researchers, to advance creation of a modern study environment, as well as to promote construction and refurbishment of university’s buildings.

About “Friends of the University of Latvia”

Since 2012, the non-profit organization “Friends of the University of Latvia” has been uniting American citizens of Latvian origin – supporters of the University of Latvia. It is the partner organization of the UL Foundation, founded by the initiative of John J. Medveckis. By donating to this Foundation, US citizens can receive tax deduction. The main task of the foundation is to ensure a brighter future for Latvian education.


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