Every man, woman, and child are fighting their own battle behind closed doors, but some people show the world their problems. Ruta Sepetys’ writing in Between Shades of Gray has given power to the voice of many and has broken the silence of history.
We were taken under the veil of the night sky. All of us were thought to be criminals... man, woman, and child alike. We took a long train ride that only brought us hunger, illness, death, and closer to our prison of hatred. We were criminals because we helped the victims of a war between two devils, with my homeland as the battlefield. Nobody said anything, but the world will hear the echoes of this war.
That was Lina describing her journey. This book is her story of pain and suffering, friendship and heartbreak, hate and love. Her story shows the miraculous nature of the human spirit. Lina was given many options in her life. She could have chosen to hate her captors, but she found that she was not the only one who was fighting, as some of her captors were not captors by choice. For some, their position of “power” was just a prison of “hate,” without compassion. These people were the ones who were not yearning for power, but something else— hope, forgiveness, someone who understood, love.
When all remain silent, it takes one true courage to break the silence. The Lithuanians were being oppressed and were not allowed to say a word. They could not call for help in a battle; they could not win alone. Lina had this courage and was not afraid to confront the enemy. She knew the battle at hand. The enemy took everything they were given to achieve power— fear, courage, hate, everything. And they took it all because they were considered criminals. The enemy has attacked them without a reason as to why. The only way out is to give up any hope of returning home. The people have to pay the price for a crime they did not do. Hard labor was the cost, but the key to victory was to have a voice.
Lina’s story is one that has spanned the years since it was first told. It ended in 1945 but has been forgotten by many. The one of Hitler and the Jewish people? No, there was another battle being fought. The Jewish people were not the only ones who suffered. Many others did, but this story comes from the Lithuanians. Lithuanians battled not one, but two devils, their names Hitler and Stalin. Does this story not sound familiar? Well, that is the reason Sepetys wrote Between Shades of Gray. Through Lina’s story, Sepetys tells many tales of conquest and lies. Lina’s story is not really the story of a girl named Lina, the journey of one girl’s fight. It is the journey of tens of thousands of people who suffered through Russia’s persecution of Lithuania and Germany’s occupation of Lithuania. The false promise of freedom. This tale has both beauty and importance. The writing in the book is to provide an absolute record of what happened, so humans will not repeat the grave mistakes of the past.