THIS ARTICLE BY THE LOGICAL RADICAL WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE PRINT EDITION OF THE EVENING ECHO, I HAVE DECIDED TO PUT THIS UP HERE FOR THE SAKE OF THE YOUNG WOMAN MISSING, AS THE NEWSPAPER HASN’T DONE SO YET.
Ilze Skromane’s voice breaks talking about her sister’s love for animals, nature and people. “My sister is wonderful, she is very friendly, warm and trustworthy,” she says.
The Cork woman hasn’t seen her sister Liga since the early hours of March 14 when she went missing while on a “healing vacation” in Kerala, India. She was last seen on Kerala’s Kovalam beach.
Ilze, owner of a beauty salon in Cork, says that she noticed her sister was suffering from “post-traumatic depression” since last August. As Liga was not responding well to mainstream treatment, the Skromane sisters decided to try an alternative medicine: Ayurveda healing.
“Liga always wanted to visit India, and I offered her to come with me and start Ayurveda Programme,” she says. Ayurveda treatment is an ancient Hindu method of healing. The programme usually consists of daily yoga and meditation routines.
On February 21, the sisters arrived at Dharma Ayurveda Healing Centre – an Ayurveda yoga retreat in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala in Southwest India – where Liga was supposed to undergo a six-week treatment programme.
On the morning of her disappearance, Liga had complained about a “slight headache” and asked her sister to attend their morning yoga class by herself.
“I asked would she like me to ask for some headache medicine from the doctor, but she said it would go away if I just lie down,” Ilze says.
“I put a cold, wet towel on her forehead, gave her a kiss and a cuddle and said I’ll see her soon,” she recalls.
An hour later, Ilze returned to their room and found her sister missing.
”When I didn’t find her in the room I thought she had gone for a walk,” she says. After a few hours, Ilze started to get anxious. Finally, the centre’s staff informed her that an auto-rickshaw (a motorised three-wheeler for hire in India) driver is confident that he has given Liga a lift to the beach that morning.
“When the driver said that he gave her a lift to the beach I felt a ray of hope and thought oh maybe she just decided to go for a walk on the beach,” Ilze says.
The driver claims that Liga had paid him to take her to the “closest beach” to the area, and had asked him to “keep the change”. Ilze says her sister has taken “2000 Indian Rupees (€25) at the most” with herself.
“I went to the beach and started searching and very quickly realised that she was not there and then panic started to set in,” Ilze recalls.
Liga has left her passport and belongings in their room. The 33-year-old woman holds a Latvian passport and a permanent Irish residency. Liga has been living away from her sister, as she’d moved to Swords, Dublin to live with her partner Andrew Jordan since a few years ago. The Dublin man arrived in Kerala on an emergency visa on March 17.
Ilze says distance never hurt their strong sisterly bond. “We’re the closest sisters. We would rarely fight even though I was in Cork managing my business and she had to go to Dublin, but we still had a very good relationship,” she says.
Liga and Ilze’s parents in Latvia are especially worried and distance is making them more anxious. “My parents wanted to come over, but I told them not to because it would only distress them more,” Ilze says.Not knowing what has happened to Liga is what troubles Ilze the most. “It is very hard when you don’t know anything, and there is no comfort, and you keep wondering is she okay?”
The Cork woman fears that her sister might be held hostage. “It could be that she’s being held against her will for some reason,” she says.
Numerous missing person posters of Ilze have been distributed in Kerala and nearby areas. Ilze had since briefed the media in a press conference and is reaching out to Indian, Latvian and Irish authorities for help.
“We’re trying to ask the parliament and embassies [Latvian and Irish] to pressure them [Indian authorities] to put more men on the ground and look for Liga,” Ilze says. “It would be much appreciated if the Irish Embassy could help us.”
Andrew Jordan had claimed that the Department of Foreign Affairs is reluctant to offer aid as Liga is not an Irish citizen. The Department of Foreign Affairs’s press office says “the department does not comment on individual cases” and did not respond to queries regarding their general policy toward similar situations.
The Latvian embassy in India, however, says they are working closely with Irish authorities to find Liga.
“The Embassy of Latvia highly appreciates constructive and professional cooperation with the Embassy and the Honorary Consul of Ireland in Chennai, who have offered their assistance. The search for the missing woman is a high priority for both Embassies in India,” reads the Latvian Embassy’s statement. According to the Latvian Embassy in India, Sweden has also announced its willingness to assist with search efforts.
Ilze is full of gratitude for her fellow Corkonians’ support during this challenging time.
“First of all I just want to say thank you so much to people in Cork who have sent me so many messages and please just keep sharing Liga’s story,” she says.
Ilze has also set up a Facebook page called “Missing in Kerala” to facilitate contact for people with any useful information about her sister.
Liga is 5’6, skinny with dark hair and blue eyes. Indian police are offering a reward of 2 lakh (nearly €1,240) to those who can lead them to her.