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LG Optics employs 135 people in Līvāni, sourcing many of its specialist technicians locally thanks to a Līvāni offshoot of the University of Latvia and Riga Technical University.
In fact there are two major manufacturers based in the town, both having their origins in an earlier company which in turn traces its history back to a classified Soviet-era project to produce what at the time were amazingly advanced fibre strands for use in military communications and the space program. Nor does the long, thin history end there: the secret research department was part of the well-known Līvāni glass factory, which in turn resulted from Līvāni's long history as a center for glass-blowing, which taps into Latgale region's ancient reputation as a place with a rich history of craftsmanship of all kinds.
And that explains why the place Gunta has chosen to bring us next is not the LG Optics factory but the Latgale art and craft center, incorporating the Līvāni glass museum. Right on the bank of the Daugava in a beautful location, it immediately rewards the decision to stop that any of those passing cars, trains – or even boats - might make.
“When the American ambassador came to visit, the river was in flood – so we brought her here in a boat. She liked it a lot,” remembers Gunta. “It's strange to think that here we are in Latgale, but cross the river on the ferry and in a few minutes you are in Zemgale, with quite different traditions.”
Waiting inside then as now is guide Silvija Podniece, an irrepresible source of information about everything from woodworking to folk costume. But it is in the halls dedicated to glass and the workshops where master craftsmen and women still go about their business that her enthusiasm rises higher than any flood waters.
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