In her work, Aleksandra Czerniawska focuses on the history of Polish-Belarusian borderland and the Belarusian population living in Poland. The painting Dogs, from a series entitled In the Village, depicts the fate of the inhabitants of Zaczerlany in Podlasie during, and shortly after, World War II. The artist, of Belarusian origin, created this series based on her grandfather’s stories and it is a narrative presented from the perspective of her Belarusian family’s experiences.
In the series, the same stories are repeated in the form of larger narratives or close-ups and details. The painting shows a woman lying on the ground and surrounded by dogs. It is part of a larger narrative about a man who hid in his aunt’s house but was denounced by a neighbour and turned over to the Germans. He was shot on the doorstep of that house, and the dogs bit the woman to death. While painting the picture, the artist did not know the identity of the denunciator. The killed man was hiding because he was accused of participating in the underground resistance movement, but there is no information as to whether these accusations were real or whether his organisation was communist or anti-communist.
The series is a personal meditation on family memory, which does not fit into the canon of the Polish narrative of the “cursed soldiers”. Czerniawska considered it necessary to create a separate narrative recreating the accounts of tragic events repeated by those close to her.