Diaspora activist and Saeima deputy Vaira Paegle passes away

On 14 June 2019, the former Deputy of the Saeima Vaira Paegle died in her home in West Hartford, Connecticut, United States, according to her daughter Laila's statement on “Facebook”.

Paegle was born on 6 July 1942 in Rīga. At the end of World War II, she and her family emigrated, first to Germany, then to the USA, where she grew up and went to school, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in international relations from Tufts University, and a Master's degree in Middle-Eastern history from the University of New Hampshire.

For more than 30 years, she worked for the Connecticut Department of Social Services, heading its social benefit program. She was the chairwoman of the Estonian, Latvian & Lithuanian Association (ELLA), and the vice-chairwoman of the American Latvian Association (ALA). From 1994.–1998. she served as the president of the World Federation of Free Latvians. She was the first Western Latvian to visit the Latvians living in Siberia, the family's farewell message stated.

Upon her return to Latvia in 1998. Paegle was elected a member of the People's Party in the 7th Saeima. She also served as deputy in the 8th and 9th Saeimas, where she held several positions – Chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs and European Affairs Committees, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vice-president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the head of Latvian Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

In 1999, the People's Party selected her as candidate for State President, but she was not elected. She was a co-founder of the People's Party and the Association for Gender Equality, and the Nordic Women's Academy

In 2009, Paegle left the People's Party and continued to act as an unattached Member in the Saeima. In January of 2010, she joined the Civic Union. After an unsuccessful candidacy for the 10th Saeima as part of the political union “Unity”, Paegle announced her departure from politics and returned to the United States. 

At the National Democratic Institute (NDI) in Washington, she taught female politicians from Kosovo, Kuwait, Serbia, and Jordan, and has also paid several high-ranking working visits to the Middle East, including the Gaza Strip.

She has been awarded the “Daugavas Vanagi” golden insignia, the Sniķers commemorative medal for service to the state, the Prime Minister's Appreciation award, the Medal of Defense, and Special Acknowledgements from the US Congress Delegation to the NATO Assembly, the Governor and Chief Prosecutor of Connecticut, the US Department of Agriculture and Kuwait. 

On 12 November 2018, she published a memoir: "The Thorns of Freedom: An Exile's Return to Latvia."

She was married to Viesturs Paeglis, with whom she had a daughter, Leila.

Paegle will be cremated, and her ashes will be stored in the Latvian Memorial Park in the Catskills, according her daughter's message.

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