Harijs Upenieks was born in 1925 in the Independent Republic of Latvija and studied mechanical engineering from 1940-1944 when he was mustered as a junior deckhand on a cargo vessel which was subsequently bombed, docking in a German port later that year. He then made his way across Germany towards Switzerland.
When the war ended, he languished in a Displaced Peoples camp in Germany until late 1947, where he continued to study and attend art classes in the camp.
In 1948, Harijs emigrated to Australia and was trained in South Australian Railways traffic procedures. He worked as a railwayman in Mt Gambier for two years.
In 1956, he joined the technical staff of the University of Western Australia from which he retired in 1990.
In his early childhood, he drew and painted, with solo exhibitions in 1972 and 2002. He has published a booklet, ‘Man-Powered Flying with the oscillating wings’ and also written his memoirs, ‘The Shadow of Six Flags Upon My Tracks’, now in the Alexander Library, Perth, WA.
He continues to devote some time to painting and writing.