June 12, 2015
Battling Abuse, Loss, and Starvation in Between Shades of Grey
“Many people don’t know that during that time of German occupation, over 200,000 Lithuanian Jews were killed” (Sepetys 350). In the fight against Hitler and the Nazis, the U.S. and Stalin were allies during World War II. Stalin had a racial cleansing in the Baltic Region. His actions disrupted the livelihoods of others. Caught between the Soviet and Nazi empires and forgotten by the world, the Baltic States simply disappeared from maps. Ruta Sepetys, Between Shades of Grey, illustrates that as a result of the racial cleansing of the Baltic Region, people suffer from abuse, death of a loved one, and starvation, however, characters in this novel are able to overcome these obstacles through hope, love, and perseverance, respectively.
Firstly, throughout the physical and emotional abuse, the prisoners never give up hope which assist them in surviving. The NKVD (law enforcement agency of the Soviet Union) have no issues with physically beating the innocent prisoners and calling them obscene and vulgar names. “You’re all filthy pigs. You live in filth. It’s no wonder you’re dying” (Sepetys 304-305). It seems as though the officers are humiliating the prisoners and they get a sense of happiness towards their pain. “Dysentery, typhus, and scurvy crawled into camp. Lice feasted on our open sores” (Sepetys 304-305). This illustrates that the NKVD officers show no care regarding a prisoner’s welfare and hygiene, further suggesting that the NKVD officers are stripping the Lithuanians of their basic human rights. Although Lina, Mother, and Jonas suffer this abuse from the NKVD officers, they maintain the hope that they will “go home” (Sepetys 100). Mother instructs Lina to “Keep thinking of your father and of our house. We must keep it alive in our hearts . . . If we do, we’ll get there” (Sepetys 100). This indicates that even with the brutal abuse that...