“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”
Tonight I just finished reading the most wonderful, powerful and enlightening story. I had to quickly write down my emotions. I find it ironic that while I’m writing this, I have the movie Schindler’s List turned on in the background.
Between Shades of Gray is a story told through the eyes of 15 year old Lina. In June 1941, the Soviet secret police arrest Lina, her mother and brother. The three are placed on a cattle car along with other deported individuals. Their journey ends with them living in deplorable, isolated and freezing conditions in Sibera.
Lina, an artist, decides to document her journey through letters and pictures so that one day someone will find out what happened to them.
Like most people, I’m unaware of this peace of history. We all know about Hitler and how he murdered millions of Jews. Apparently Stalin of Russian made an agreement with Hitler to take over several states. In 1939, the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Anyone that was considered anti-Soviet were murdered, sent to prison or deported into slavery. Its estimated that Stalin murdered more than 20 million people during his reign.
This story is about survival.
Truthfully, I don’t know how anyone survived that. The Soviets tried to break the spirits of these people. If they were unable to work, they weren’t given rations of bread to eat. That’s all they were given. No meats, vegetables or even the basic foods. In one scene, a woman actually hid a beet in her panties to give it to the hungry. No one even cared it was hidden there. They were starving. In another scene, people would sneak rotten food out of the garbage. Not caring that it was covered with bugs or maggots, they just brushed them off and quickly at the food.
Other parts of the book that I found to be so humbling is how no matter what happened to these people, they continued to keep their spirits high. They refused to let the Soviets cause any rifts between them. It was important for them not to turn on each other. They wouldn’t give the Soviets the satisfaction.
There was also a love story between Lina and another detainee Andrius. Yes even in horrific times like that, love still has a way of bonding people together.
The whole time I was reading this powerful story, I kept asking myself, “How can people be so cruel?” It hurts me to my heart to know that these people had to endure such atrocities. The Soviet soldiers that were monitoring the camps would shoot people on sight, laugh when one of them died and purposely refused them food. They lacked compassion. Why? Because some ass named Stalin told them they had to do it.
I’m glad Ruta Sepetys was able to tell this story. I hope its a story that is told everywhere. Its a must read.