Childhood immersed in work and thirst for knowledge

Minna Matilde Vilhelmīne Petkevičs (née Melli) (1860–1943) was born on 9 February 1860, in the present Stopiņi municipality, Ulbroka community, in Plunči farmstead. Her parents Kārlis and Trīne Melli had two more children – Minna’s older sister Natālija and brother Kārlis.

Minna's father was a tenant of the Plunči farmstead and the pub, he also rented the land of the property. The childhood of three children was spent in hard work. From an early age, children acquired work ethic and a love for art. Although parents sent all three children to elementary school, emphasizing the importance of education, it was the only school Minna attended, and it was much regretted it in the later years of her life.

"She came to realize that education opened up a lot more opportunities in life, and was sad of missing the opportunity to continue her education," writes Rūta Krastiņa, the legal representative of the heirs of M. M. V. Petkevičs, also describing the further course of her life.

"In the summer of 1879, Minna met a young man of Polish descent, Leopolds fon Petkevičs, who, at the age of 14, encouraged by his father, followed his own life path, working as a dishwasher in a restaurant in Riga, until he became an owner of the place. Since Minna had grown to be a wise, strong and beautiful young woman, her parents did not raise any objections regarding her choice, and on 7 January 1881, the couple married when Minna was 21 and Leopolds had turned 25. Because Leopolds was Catholic, Minna also adopted Catholic faith and acquired a name of Vilhelmīne at her confirmation, which hereafter was used as her sole name."

On 26 July 1883, son Feliks Kārlis Edgars was born into the family of Vilhelmīne and Leopolds, and in June of 1892, Helmuts Zigismunds Juliuss was born. The youngest son, Zigfrīds Romeo, is believed to have been born at the end of the 19th century, but there is no record of him – Romeo may have died during World War I, according to historical data.

The couple's sons, Helmuts (to the left) and Felikss, supported by parents, graduated with a degree in music and art, and were highly regarded in their professions.

The building that brings a revenue used to support Latvian students

"The purchase agreement for the property at Krišjāņa Barona iela 28/28a was entered into by the Petkevičs family in 1896, acquiring a plot of land consisting of several wooden buildings, stables and a three-storey building under construction. Konstantīns Pēkšēns, one of the first Latvian architects, took over its design and supervision of building, and the reconstruction was completed in 1914.

In 1914, the Petkevičs family drew up and approved a joint will, in which they gave their entire estate to the spouse who would survive the other. In the event of both spouses’ passing away, their inheritance should be paid out to fund the education of all three sons," Krastiņa emphasizes.

When the Red Army entered Latvia in 1918, Vilhelmīne and Leopolds, as large landowners, were arrested and held in prison, where Leopolds contracted tuberculosis and died on 1 May 1919 at the age of 63.

Later, when Vilhelmīne was released, she buried her husband in Miķeļa cemetery, but the deaths of her youngest son Zigismunds and her husband, as well as the effects of World War I prevented her recovery for several years.

The economic activities of the family, as well as the construction of buildings were suspended for a long time. In 1924, Vilhelmīne became the heir of the entire estate, with the involvement of her son Helmuts, as well as family friend, architect Eižens Laube.

In later years, a hotel "Marss" with 54 rooms was built in the house at K. Barona iela, accommodating both foreigners and residents of Latvia who had come to Riga.

When Latvia lost its independence in 1940, private properties were nationalized, including the property of Vilhelmīne at K. Barona iela 28/28a, so in 1942, when writing the second will of her life, Vilhelmīne included the following words: "If the real estate in Riga, K. Barona iela No. 28/28a was returned…"

In the last few years of her life, Vilhelmīne was especially close to her nephews, children of her sister and brother, who she gratefully included in her will as heirs, who also inherited property, since the fate of both sons and their families (to whom she had bequeathed the property) after World War II was unknown. In 2012, granddaughter Benita's three daughters and husband came to Riga and found their grandmother's property," says the legal representative of Petkevičs family.

On 10 May 1943, in the presence of her son Helmuts, M. M. V. Petkevičs died at her home, aged 83 and was buried in Riga, Miķeļa cemetery next to her husband.

“[...] I have acquired my property for many years, toiling hard and saving money, so it is my last will and desire that this property, after my death, be preserved for a long time and not fall into the hands of strangers ..."

This sentence was set down in the will of Minna Matilde Vilhelmīne Petkevičs, whereby she bequeathed a part of building at K. Barona iela 28/28A to the University of Latvia.

Plaque of honour and rhododendron

In 2010, commemorating the 150th anniversary of UL patroness Minna Matilde Vilhelmīne Petkevičs, a memorial plaque was unveiled at her legacy bequeathed to the University of Latvia (building at the K. Barona iela 28/28A). Following the invitation of the University of Latvia Foundation, the UL Rhododendron Breeding and Experimental Nursery "Babīte" and the Dean of the UL Faculty of Biology, Prof. Rihards Kondratovičs, paying tribute to LU Foundation’s patroness M. M. V. Petkevičs, gave one of the evergreen rhododendron varieties the name "Vilhelmīne".

The article was prepared by Evija Krūmiņa (Delfi), with a reference to information collected by Rūta Krastiņa, the legal representative of the heirs of M. M. V. Petkevičs.


The legacy that patroness Minna Matilde Vilhelmīne Petkevičs left to the University of Latvia is a part of building at K. Barona iela 28/28A. Revenue from its management, thanks to the selfless work of Rūta Krastiņa, the authorized representative of the UL, is used for M. M. V. Petkevičs memorial scholarships to support capable and hardworking first-year students at the University of Latvia with insufficient financial resources. By 2015, more than 200 young people had received these scholarships.

Scholarship recipients

In the 2018/2019 academic year, the scholarships were awarded to Kerolaina Stepe, Arina Jermakova, Jana Komļeva, Zane Jermuša, Jēkabs Jānis Akermanis, Samanta Homiča, Una Loreta Laviņa, Anita Garā, Sofija Anna Kozlova, Linda Lielbriede, Ernests Tomass Auziņš and Vairis Stramkalis.

In the 2017/2018 academic year, the scholarships were awarded to Sabīne Riekstiņa, Roberts Kličovs, Patrīcija Kuzmina, Aivars Pētersons, Diāna Sloboda and Anna Skrastiņa.

In the 2015/2016 academic year, the scholarships were awarded to Liene Griķīte, Paula Baltace, Diāna Vidronoka, Ariadna Kramkovska, Marija Stefānija Skudra, Dina Bloha, Laura Bobule, Signe Viška, Anete Baltiņa, Ēriks Teteris, Ieva Jokste, Anastasija Balašova, Madara Lindāne, Kristiana Āriņa and Artūrs Šilaks.

We greatly appreciate the generous support to education and development!