In 1987, in Riga, Dagnija was shown an illegal photo of the suppression of a demonstration against the Hitler-Stalin pact (signed August 23, 2939) that had started the brutal Soviet occupation of the Baltic States in 1940. She was so moved by the photo that after returning to USA she painted her first martyr. Other martyrs followed - she thought of her relatives who died in Siberia, also, the young Latvian boys, who were sent to fight in Afghanistan and came back in zinc coffins (Soviets invaded Afghanistan in 1980).

 

“The Martyrs “theme of suffering and death” speaks of many tragic events in the world, especially of those in Latvia’s recent history [..] Although Dagnija left Latvia as a young child, she deeply felt the loss of her homeland and the tragic fate of her people.

Two recent visits to Latvia lent even more credence to her feelings [..] The vertical paintings show one upside-down figure in the form of a cross. The association is with the early Christian persecutions, however, the symbolism of these paintings allows for more universal interpretations - about man’s inhumanity to man, subjugation and destruction.”

(E. Sturma, art critic)

 

Being a refugee herself, Dagnija identified and painted the “Vietnamese Refugees”, also "Afghan refugees".

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