They took me in my nightgown.
Thinking back, the signs were there—family photos
burned in the fireplace, Mother sewing her best silver and
jewelry into the lining of her coat late at night, and Papa not returning from work. My younger brother, Jonas, was asking questions. I asked questions, too, but perhaps I refused to acknowledge the signs. Only later did I realize that Mother and Father intended we escape. We did not escape.
We were taken.
June 14, 1941. I had changed into my nightgown and settled
in at my desk to write my cousin Joana a letter. I opened
a new ivory writing tablet and a case of pens and pencils, a gift from my aunt for my fifteenth birthday.
The evening breeze floated through the open window
over my desk, waltzing the curtain from side to side. I could smell the lily of the valley that Mother and I had planted two years ago. Dear Joana.
It wasn’t a knocking. It was an urgent booming that made
me jump in my chair. Fists pounded on our front door. No
one stirred inside the house. I left my desk and peered out into the hallway. My mother stood flat against the wall facing our framed map of Lithuania, her eyes closed and her face pulled with an anxiety I had never seen. She was praying.
“Mother,” said Jonas, only one of his eyes visible through
the crack in his door, “are you going to open it? It sounds as if they might break it down.”
Mother’s head turned to see both Jonas and me peering out
of our rooms. She attempted a forced smile. “Yes, darling. I will open the door. I won’t let anyone break down our door.”
The heels of her shoes echoed down the wooden floor of
the hallway and her long, thin skirt swayed about her ankles. Mother was elegant and beautiful, stunning in fact, with an unusually wide smile that lit up everything around her. I was fortunate to have Mother’s honey-colored hair and her bright blue eyes. Jonas had her smile.
Loud voices thundered from the foyer.
“NKVD!” whispered Jonas, growing pale. “Tadas said they
took his neighbors away in a truck. They’re arresting people.”
“No. Not here,” I replied. The Soviet secret police had no
business at our house. I walked down the hallway to listen and peeked around the corner. Jonas was right. Three NKVD officers had Mother encircled. They wore blue hats with a red border and a gold star above the brim. A tall officer had our passports in his hand.
“We need more time. We’ll be ready in the morning,”
“Twenty minutes—or you won’t live to see morning,” said
“Please, lower your voice. I have children,” whispered
“Twenty minutes,” the officer barked. He threw his burning
cigarette onto our clean living room floor and ground it
into the wood with his boot.
We were about to become cigarettes.
From BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY by Ruta Sepetys. Published by arrangement with Philomel, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright © 2011 by Ruta Sepetys.
Fifteen-year-old Lina was taken in her nightgown. Arrested in Lithuania in 1941—along with her mother and brother—by the Soviet Secret Police, she suddenly found herself on a harrowing odyssey across thousands of miles to a frozen Siberian gulag. There, forced to live under the cruelest conditions, she finds solace in her art, documenting her experiences through her drawings and hoping against hope that they would somehow make their way to her father to let him know that they’re still alive.
Written by Ruta Sepetys, herself the daughter of Lithuanian refugees, Between Shades of Gray is a revelation, one that gives voice to those who suffered during Stalin’s Baltic cleansing…and that captures the power of the human spirit.
Hardcover Book : 352 pages
Publisher: Philomel Books ( March 22, 2011 )
Item #: 13-311113
Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.25 x 0.79inches
Product Weight: 14.0 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
i really enjoyed reading this book. i wasn't sure how much i'd like it, but i found i couldn't put it down! due to having 4 kids and no time for reading during the day, i stayed up way to late for several nights to finish this one. but it was worth it!
Reviewer: Jenna B
Best book I have read in a long time. I almost didn't want to read it because I thought it would read more like a history lesson but it didn't. Great reading. Couldn't put it down.
This book is a must read !!I could not put it down and I learned so much about this time in history.And for a first time writer,she really knows how to tell a story,hope she writes another soon!Normaly as soon as I finish a book,I pick another quickly from my library,but after reading this book,I can't seem to figure out what to read next,I want more of this story!Thank you Ruta Sepetys,GREAT BOOK !
Reviewer: Cheryl Y
Wow! At first I was skeptical about purchasing a book written by someone I never heard of...and once I started reading I didn't get past the first 3 chapters without me thinking "why did I buy this?" The beginning to me was so childish but as I determined myself to continue I was captivated by the brutal treatment, and later realizing it was based on true events kept me intrigued. I fell in love with Lina's Mothers' determination on keeping her family united and full of hope. This book has really inspired me to learn more of this tragic time that just ended not too long ago. Definitely & HIGHLY recommend, you will be inspired to be & do better !
This is one book that all schools should read. What an eyeopener as to what these people had to go through. What a terrifying experience.