November 21, 1939 – December 29, 2023
Aina Feldmanis Williams passed away peacefully in her sleep on Friday, December 29th, surrounded by people who loved her. She is survived by her children Mark Williams (Sarah Feit) and Jenine Larsen (Shane Millener), and grandchildren Zoe, Margaret, Micah, Benjamin and Noah and sister-in-law Zinada Feldmanis. Aina is predeceased by her husband, Robert Williams, and her brothers Visvaldis Feldmanis of Biksti, Latvia and Villis Feldmanis, of Hobart, Australia, and her parents Karlis and Zinaida Feldmanis, also of Hobart.
Aina was born in Bartha, Latvia, near Latvia’s west coast on the Baltic Sea, on November 21, 1939. When she was a young child, her family moved to the capital city, Riga. Her father, Karlis Feldmanis, was an intelligence officer in the Latvian Army, following in the family tradition of military service with his father and brothers. In late 1944, the Soviets retook control of Latvia from Nazi Germany and Karlis, as a member of the Intelligence Corps, was wanted by the Soviets. Family lore has it that Aina was walking home with her mother and two older brothers when a neighbor warned them that the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, were waiting for them at their home, forcing the family to flee with nothing but what they had with them. They were able to get passage on one of the last boats out of Latvia, from the city of Liepaja, before the Soviet Iron Curtain fell on the country.
The boat landed in northern Poland, where they began a months-long journey on foot to safety. Walking through Poland and then Germany in 1944 and 1945 meant crossing and recrossing Soviet and Nazi lines. Karlis also spoke Russian, German and Polish, helping secure crossings of the front lines. At times there was little to eat, and they survived on what they could scavenge in forests and fields. In 1945, they crossed Allied-controlled southern Germany, where they lived in Berchesgaden, home to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest and near his former holiday home. In 1952, the family emigrated to Tasmania in southern Australia, with stops in Rome, Cairo, New Delhi, Singapore, Darwin in northernmost Australia and Melbourne in that still early age of passenger plane travel.
Aina lived in Australia until her mid-20s, in Tasmania where she grew up and then in Sydney, before moving to the US. She lived with her family on the banks of the Derwent River in Hobart, Tasmania’s green and mountainous seaside capital city. They were an athletic family—she played field hockey, her brothers were both semipro basketball players—and she would swim far out into the Derwent with her father.
She first met Robert, her future husband, in 1966, when he saw her from across the street from his downtown office. Coincidentally, they had a mutual friend who set them up and were married just a few months later, on March 3, 1967. They remained happily married for 56 years. In 1973, they moved to Melbourne, Australia to be near Aina’s family in Tasmania. They remained in Australia for three years before returning to Birmingham, but she made frequent visits, sometimes lasting six weeks, back to Hobart.
Aina lived an amazing life that started with peril and uncertainty, but with many, many years of family, love, and peace. She was loving, unceasingly generous, brave, and vivacious—everyone who knew her could not help but wonder at the life she lived. Services will be held at Charter Funeral Home at 2521 Highway 31 in Calera on Thursday, January 4, 2024. A visitation will begin at 10:00 am, followed by a service at 11:00 am. Aina will be laid to rest in the Alabama National Cemetery at 12:30 pm, alongside Robert.