Vika Eksta
Conversations with Dad

Multi-media installation, video 20’’
Audio guide to this piece

The Soviet–Afghan War (1979–89) was the most brutal military conflict of the late Soviet period. Many young people were assigned to the Soviet army on a mandatory basis and were thus drawn into this war against their will. More than 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed during this war, while on the Afghan side, about a million people died, most of them civilians. To date, the soldiers have received no psychological assistance in dealing with this traumatic experience.

The artist writes: “My father got into the war in Afghanistan at the beginning of the conflict and spent ten months as a sergeant in the air defence (missile) division. Like most of the soldiers, he was drafted there soon after graduating the school. My dad has talked little and reluctantly about this experience, saying that he can only be understood by those who have experienced it themselves, and that no one is interested in this war today. For many victims of the Soviet–Afghan War, the psychological trauma led to severe experiences and destructive behavior, which also affected the lives of their families. In the US, the term ‘Vietnam Syndrome’ was coined in response to the injury of Vietnam War veterans, but in the USSR, the press praised the heroism of former soldiers and promoted “masculine silence” on the most painful aspects. The restored Republic of Latvia chose not to be interested in the 3.5 thousand compatriots who had been called up for this war.”

Ieva Astahovska, Vika Eksta

Vika Eksta is an artist and educator who employs photography, moving image, performance and audiovisual archives in her work. She has studied photography at Andrejs Grants’ studio and at the EFTI School of Photography in Madrid, and obtained her MA from the Visual Communication Department at the Art Academy of Latvia. Vika is the winner of the ADC Young Guns, FK Portfolio and Riga Photography Biennale awards for young Baltic photographers, and is nominated for the Purvītis Prize, the main award in the Latvian visual arts. She has been participating in exhibitions in Latvia and abroad.