Peter Jirgens is extremely well-known in the Shoalhaven.
When younger, he made headlines as an extremely talented footballer and cricketer. He was also a long-serving engineer with Shoalhaven City Council.
Now he is the face and driving force of Shoalhaven Riverwatch, having taken over from Charlie Weir.
A new book, Out of Latvia, which will be launched locally early next month, is Peter’s amazing story.
It is the story of two men, a generation apart, one growing up in the shadow of the other.
Written by David Kerr, it is the story of Peter’s youth as the son of Arnold Jirgens, a Latvian immigrant, who struggled against discrimination and deceit to establish his family in Nowra.
It is also the story of how a migrant's son wrestled with belonging to two places - the land of his birth and the land of his ancestors.
He shares the stories his father told him of the hardship of life under Soviet rule, his escape from Europe after World War II and the early days of his new life as an immigrant in a land far from home.
Fiercely Latvian, Arnold Jirgens instilled in his son a love for a country and people he had never seen.
Arnold longed to return home, to see his homeland once more and find out if his remaining family had survived the war.
But returning as a Latvian—and therefore Soviet—citizen could see him, and any son of his, incarcerated, drafted into the Soviet army or sent to Siberia.
Over the years, Arnold’s longing becomes Peter’s dream.
Though his father was prepared to wait until the Soviets no longer controlled his country, Peter was not.
Prejudice and risk-taking marked Peter’s early years, from which he developed an ability to live on the edge and make the most of every situation.
In 1980, against the wishes of his parents and the advice of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, 27-year-old Peter entered Soviet communist-controlled territory.
His thirst for adventure almost costs him his life.
Peter also reflects on the early days of his life in Nowra; his engineering career with Shoalhaven Council and his love for cricket and rugby league.
Out of Latvia, published by AIA Publishing, will be available in both paperback and ebook and will be launched at Peter and Margie Jirgens’ property at Cambewarra on Saturday, April 8 from 4pm.