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Between Shades of Gray

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Megan Balfe

on 3 June 2013

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Transcript of Between Shades of Gray

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepeteys Kaunas, Lithuania Vilnius, Lithuania Minsk, Belarus Orsha, Belarus Smolensk, Russia Cross the Ural Mountains Omsk, Siberia Altai Labor Camp Biysk, Siberia Makarov Camp Banks of Angara River Ust Kust, Siberia Yakutsk, Siberia Cross the Arctic Circle Trofimovsk, North Pole This is the town in Lithuania where Lina Vilkas and her family lived.
Her father, Kostas, was a professor at the university.
Lina, her mother, Elena, and her brother, Jonas were taken from their home by the NKVD.
They were given 20 minutes to pack a suitcase and to be out the door.
The NKVD officers began shouting "Davai!" which means "Hurry!" in Russian. This is a word the prisoners would hear for the next twelve years or so.
Lina's family along with many other people were taken to the train station in trucks, where they were loaded into cattle cars. This is the capital of Lithuania.
Lina was supposed to be going here for an art class.
They only knew they were here by looking through the spaces between the boards of the train car.
From here, their train ride continued. "'We can't leave these people,' said Mother. 'You must get a stretcher.'
The officer laughed. 'You can carry them.'
We did. Two men form the truck carried the wailing bald man. I carried the baby and a suitcase while Mother helped Ona walk. Jonas struggled with the rest of the luggage, and Miss Grybas and the librarian helped." As mean as the officers were to these people, they stuck together and helped one another out. There would be no way for them to do it on their own. "Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother's was worth a pocket watch." Mrs. Vilkas paid one of the NKVD officers to let her 10 year old son stay with her. This showed how worthless their lives really were to the the Soviets. "The back of our train car had Russian writing on it.
'Thieves and Prostitutes,' Andrius whispered. 'That's what it says.'
Thieves and Prostitutes. Our mothers were in that car, along with a teacher, a librarian, elderly people, and a newborn baby--thieves and prostitutes." Lina could not believe that this is what everyone else saw as the train passed by. They were not criminals, but the NKVD made it appear that way. "I love you both. Tell your mother I love her. Tell her to think of the oak tree. Say your prayers, children, and I will hear them. Pray for Lithuania. Now run back. Hurry!" Andrius, Lina, and Jonas went to look for their fathers in other train cars because they heard that they were linking onto a train full of men. Lina and Jonas found their father, which gave them hope that they would be reunited in the future and the strength to go on. Minsk was just another town that the train passed. One man kept watch to keep track of where they were going.
Every time he named another place, Lina wrote it on her hankerchief. Eventually this hankerchief would be passed on so it could hopefully reach her father. The train continued through Orsha, as well as many other cities, with its occupants having no idea where they were going. This was the last city they reached in Europe. Their journey was far from over though. "I felt as if I were riding a pendulum. Just as I would swing into the abyss of hopelessness, the pendulum would swing back with some goodness.
One day, for example, just past Omsk, we stopped in the countryside. There was a small kiosk. Mother bribed a guard to let her out of the car. She came running back, her entire skirt bowed full and heavy. She knelt down and released her skirt. Candy, toffees, lollipops, black licorice, mountains of gumdrops, and other treats spilled out onto the floor..." Although none of this was substantial, the people on the train car appreciated it and it lifted their spirits. The Ural Mountains marked the cross from Europe to Asia.
This caused them to believe that they would end up in southern Siberia, or possibly even China or Mongolia. This was another marker on the journey.
A stop was made shortly after passing through the city. After six weeks, the train finally stopped and they were able to get off, even though they were in the middle of the countryside.
At first they did not know what was going on, then they realized that their groups were being sold.
They were basically becoming slaves.
Lina's group looked so weak that they were left unsold and they were boarded onto trucks and brought to a nearby collective farm.
They were forced upon the people already living there in small huts. (approx. 10' X 12')
They were about to become beet farmers. "'Yes, well, they want me to work for them,' she said. 'Translating documents, and also speaking with the other Lithuanians who are here,' she said.
'What will you get for doing it?' asked Jonas.
'I'm not going to be their translator,' said Mother. 'I said no. They also asked me to listen to people's conversations and report them to the commander."
'To be a snitch?' said Jonas." Lina and Jonas could not believe that the NKVD would ask their mother to spy for them. The officers punished her though, by making her dig holes that people would be buried in. Jonas became very sick and there were fears of death. He could not get the the vitamins he needed, which is when "Andrius brought a can of tomatoes." Andrius's mother was forced into sleeping with the NKVD officers if she wanted her son to live. The benefit of this was that they were able to get real food and share it with the rest of the Lithuanians. Andrius' action here gave Lina and her mother hope for Jonas and for themselves. Lina and her family along with many others from their group were forced to pack up and leave again.
This meant that Lina and Jonas had to leave Andrius, their new friend.
Biysk was just a point along the way as they traveled toward the Angara River. This was a pit stop along the way.
They stopped here so the group could clean themselves before being loaded onto boats. Here the group was loaded onto boats.
This gave them hope that they could possibly escape this torture and go to America.
They were being fed more, which they knew was not out of kindness, making them wonder what they would need the strength for.
The trip up the Angara took weeks. After being loaded onto trucks, they traveled a little further to Ust Kust.
Here they waited again for barges.
They held onto their hope that they would eventually reach America. As they were approaching Yakutsk the group debated about where they would go next.
Some said that if they did stop here, they would not go to America.
The barge stopped, but they did not disembark. More supplies were just put onto the boat. Going this far north gave them hope still that they would make it to America.
They sailed on. This was at the very top of the Arctic Circle, near the North Pole.
It was nearly September, which meant that the sun was about to fall below the horizon for 180 days.
They had to build their own jurta, or hut, for their group. They could not use the supplies brought on the boat, they had to find sticks, stones, chips of brick, and driftwood.
This little hut would have to fit 15 people inside.
Luckily, Jonas found a barrel to use as a stove, but they would have to steal the wood they cut from the NKVD.
Life was very difficult for the Lithuanians; many died due to sickness, starvation, and the cold.
Food was scarce and the snow prevented them from working to get their bread rations and from getting wood.
Many of these people were destined to be here for at least a decade, if they could make it that long.
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