How the “organised chaos” in a family with 11 children gets awarded


Eastern Europe

Viktorija Slavinska-Kostigova

Family on a row. Photo private

Large families have one problem: It is difficult to get them in a photo together. When the youngest is born, the oldest ones are already flying out. Every day is a “well-organised chaos” in which everybody tries to help as much as possible.

Māris and Baiba Ozoli and their 11 children enjoy it to have the European Large Family of 2023 title. ELFAC since 2015 presents an award to a large family whose life and activity are exemplary and showcase societal values.

The Ozoli think large families must be visible in society. They think the media should spend more time on families than on liberal entertainment. The award comes from ELFAC, the European Large Family Confederation.

Like a wave

This was the first time a Latvian family had been awarded this honour. The Ozoli were finalists alongside candidates from Poland, Romania, and Italy.

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The family during winter. Photo Twitter

At the large family celebration organised in the capital city of Riga, the Ozoli family also met the previous European Large Family (2022) – the Aan family from Estonia. Both honorary families appreciate the awarded statue, which looks like a giant wave embracing the family – three children between a mom and dad. “Organisers told to spread the message of large families across Europe and the world like this wave,” says the Ozoli couple. They placed the award in the family home in Jelgava, central Latvia.

ELFAC representatives value “Baiba’s contribution to the work of The Union of Latvian Large Families, helping to coordinate national-level activities, for example, attracting supporters. It is possible only with the moral support and understanding of father Māris.”

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Mother with the youngest. Photo private

The ELFAC award givers emphasise that in this family, “the most important common duty—to give children immeasurable love, to teach responsibilities and respect for family and national values, as the family is truly patriotic towards their city and country” is not forgotten.

The family of 11 children was also noticed for actively participating in various events and addressing pressing issues affecting other families at the municipal level. “Who else will talk about it if not us, and we know ‘this kitchen’ best,” Baiba says with a smile.

She shares how she recently helped a single mother of six to find suitable accommodation. The woman and children lived in an apartment without heating, electricity, or water. When the young woman and her children found safety in their new home, she was also able to find a job.


The parents are surprised to hear that “it would not be difficult to accept and adopt another child into their family.” “You are used to giving and don’t know how to live differently. If only all women realised that they were ready to give and care. Femininity is also oriented towards caring for someone beside you,” says the mother of many children, Baiba.

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Photo private

She says their daily life is a “well-organised chaos”, with everyone pitching in to help with chores and homework. The family also enjoys spending time together, whether it’s a game night or a weekend trip.

The most challenging moment was after the birth of the first two children, she shares. She had obtained a good education and felt she had to go back to work again. Otherwise, she would leave the job market and lose her professional skills.

“At that time, I hadn’t found out what God wanted from my life. So, I was worried and even blamed my husband for many things. Then we went on a Marriage Retreat. There, we heard a testimony from another mother of many children. I received this calling at that moment – to be a many-children mother. The scripture from the Bible so touched me – what you have done to one of the least of these, you have done to Me. Who is this least? It can also be your child who has joined the family, and through caring for this little child, you also show care for God. That evening, I understood what I wanted to do in life,” shares Baiba.

According to her, the believer’s families in Europe today are more often open to life.


It is almost impossible to capture a moment when all are in one photo. The older children have already chosen their life paths. Some of them study and live abroad.

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Together at a sports session. Photo private

Of course, parents’ happiness lies in their children growing up and having an independent life. Their eldest son, Jēkabs, is already 26 and will marry this coming Friday, July 12. He obtained an architect’s diploma.

Matīss (24) is a canoeing athlete who has won several awards at the Latvian and European levels. He is also a professional actor who currently lives in New Zealand. Sister Marta (22) graduated from UVC International High School in China and works in an airline company. They all continue to maintain close contact with their families.

Kärlis (20) just became a cook, Anna Marija (17) continues her studies in high school, dances and plays theatre, and Ernests (15) and Gustavs (13) play football. Ernests was nominated as the best football player in Latvia last year. Their sister, Austra (11), studies at school and plays the cello. Sister Rūta (8) has just started school. Younger sister Grieta, who is six years old, and younger brother Druvis, who is five, attend kindergarten. Parents say they do “everything possible and impossible for the children to achieve their goals.”


The family’s essential place is the annual pilgrimage to Aglona, the central pilgrimage city in eastern Latvia. Māris and Baiba belong to the Catholic faith. They believe God provides financial support to the family for each child. “Yes, sometimes you have to give up something. But it’s a question of priorities,” says Māris.

Paying for the children’s education and growth is better than a loan for a beautiful house. Baiba says she will fulfil her dreams when the children grow up. The parents know that when you are with God, He provides everything necessary. Both share that several years ago, the family also experienced a severe crisis – when, for almost a year, Maris had no work. They went on their annual pilgrimage, and after returning from it, God answered their prayers for a good job.

In summer time. Photo private

The parents talk about faith and God in the family but do not force it on any child. The children must come to the congregation with joy. Māris says that alongside the teaching of faith in the family, the children also hear and follow what is heard in school and on social media. It primarily affects teenagers.

The mother does not hide that “conversations and discussions about various issues happen with the older children in the family.” After that, each child must make their own decision on those matters.

The children also learn to talk to each other about issues that are important to them. “If you don’t want to talk to mom or dad, you can talk to your brother and sister. I believe that they can also be your best friends. You can ask them about problems at school, bullying, or what to do in the future.”

Plan B

Are the younger children raised differently than the first ones? Mother Baiba immediately says that there is less stress. “We are more relaxed and don’t worry as much. With the first ones, for example, it was essential to teach them to read quickly. With the younger ones, we realised – they will learn to do it, no one will remain unable to read,” says Māris.

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Photo private

If the family’s Plan “A” fails, they know they must resort to Plan “B” or “C.” “Well, we missed the train; what to do? If there is a problem, we must find a solution. Well, the expensive gifted vase broke, nothing to do,” Baiba calmly says.

Once, the family and other large families from Latvia attended a formal Christmas event with the President of Latvia. They received a unique but fragile Christmas tree decoration. Upon returning home, one of the younger children broke it. Is it worth getting angry about that?

“We have also become calmer in upbringing. We understand that children can get angry during the day, but around midnight, they come to us to talk,” says Māris. If the children want to talk late at night, the parents also find the strength and time.

During their 27 years of marriage, the Ozoli family has agreed that time with children and their growth will be the priority. Both smiled, saying that investing money in children’s education is better than paying for a beautiful house. “Every family must understand what is most important today. We will also realise our dreams when the children grow up.”



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