Vaira Vikis-Freibergs was born on 1 December 1937 in Riga, Latvia. was the 6th President of Latvia and first female President of Latvia. She was elected President of Latvia in 1999 and reelected in 2003. She has been succeeded by Valdis Zatlers, who was elected President of Latvia on 31 May 2007.
At the end of 1944, as Soviet occupation of Latvia begun, Vike’s parents escaped to Germany. There she received her first education in Latvian primary school at refugee camp in LÃ¼beck, Germany. Then her family moved to French Morocco in 1949. In Morocco she attended French primary school at Daourat hydroelectric dam village where she learned French. Vike then went on to attend CollÃ¨ge de jeunes filles de Mers-Sultan in Casablanca. In 1954 her family moved to Toronto, Canada. There she completed Grade 13 and received her high school diploma. In 1958 she was accepted as a student at the University of Toronto. She firstly achieved a BA in psychology in 1958 and followed it with an MA in 1960. while working full time in Canadian Bank of Commerce as a teller. In 1957â€“1960 she worked part time as a supervisor in Branksome Hall Boarding School for Girls. In 1958, being fluent in English, French, Latvian, Spanish and German, she worked as a Spanish translator and next year went on to work as a Spanish teacher for grades 12 and 13 at Ontario Ladies’ College. Upon leaving the University of Toronto, Vike became a clinical psychologist at the Toronto Psychiatric Hospital in late 1960. She left in 1961 to resume her education at the McGill University in Montreal where she earned her PhD in experimental psychology, leaving the University in 1965.
In 1998, Ms Vike-Freiberga received an invitation she couldn’t refuse – to head the new Latvian Institute, established to raise the profile of Latvia and the Latvians around the world.
She returned to a country facing many problems in its efforts to build a Western-style democracy and market economy. In a meteoric rise in her new career as a politician, Ms Vike-Freiberga was elected president within a year. Vaira Vike-Freiberga was succeeded on 8 July 2007 by Valdis Zatlers, who was elected President of Latvia on 31 May 2007. On 18 July 2007 she founded the company VVF Consulting together with her husband. She is now on her second, four-year term as head of state.
As recently as 2000, there seemed to be little realistic prospect of Latvia’s early entry into either the EU or Nato. Latvia’s progress was uneven. A high level of corruption was causing concern in the West. There were lingering doubts over the country’s commitment to democracy, as well as deep anger among Jewish organisations at the country’s apparent dismissal of the crimes committed by those Latvians who collaborated with the Nazis in the war.
Latvia’s discriminatory policies towards its Russian minority – 30% of the population – seemed vindictive.
Latvia is now a considerably different country. It is politically stable, democratic and enjoying steady economic growth. The country has carried out a wide-ranging programme of economic and military reform.
That has been accompanied by a crackdown on corruption and efforts to bring Latvian legislation up to European standards. Even relations with Russia have begun to emerge from the deep-freeze.
Ms Vike-Freiberga has overcome strong “Eurosceptic” sentiment to make membership of the EU a reality.