The novel, Between Shades of Gray, summarizes the experiences and hardships faced by a middle class Lithuanian family amidst World War II. The main character, Lina, narrates the story and first hand describes the severe persecution that not only her family, but many other Lithuanians faced with the newfound Soviet annexation. As the historical fiction piece continues, Lina and her family’s morals, as well as overall physic, began to deteriorate as they are held in NKVD captivity for nearly 12 years. In addition, the story also shows the fast rate at which the young narrator must grow to support her adolescent brother and those struggling around her. The novel, starting abruptly with Lina’s family being taken into captivity, continues to enthrall the reader throughout, with the vivid details and imagery of this Lithuanian family’s abhorrent experience. “Ruta Sepetys.
” Newsmakers, vol. 1, Gale, 2014. Biography in Context. Accessed 14 January 2018.In this academic article, Newsmakers, a company that works to provide credible information from various scholarly and political references, educates the reader on the biography of Ruta Sepetys.
Newsmakers begins the academic journal by informing the reader on the highlights of Sepetys’ personal and professional career; the main topics including information pertaining to her personal life, experience in both the entertainment and writing industry, as well as her compelling family lineage. Sepetys, daughter of George and Phyllis, was born on November 19, 1967 in Detroit, Michigan. Growing up, Sepetys was surrounded by an “artistic, music, and literature – focused family”, influencing her to continue in her parents footsteps and pursue a career within the industry (“Ruta” 1). Therefore, two weeks after earning her “B.
S. in international finance and French” Sepetys moved back to the United States and “spent the next 15 years in Los Angeles working in the music industry” (“Ruta” 1-2). Its after those 15 years that Sepetys finally accomplished her goal of founding and running Sepetys Entertainment Group, Inc.
Over her time in the entertainment industry, Sepetys had traveled to 42 countries across 6 different continents, fulfilling her with the desire to tell others stories of her extensive travels and family history. It was then that her husband suggested she write a novel, pertaining to her father and grandfather’s experiences in Lithuania. Sepetys took the advice and “turned to her father and family for the story”(“Ruta” 2). The story associated with the persecution of thousands of Lithuanians.
Sepetys felt a “weighty responsibility to get this story right – for history, for her heritage, and for those survivors” and therefore, she traveled to Lithuania to conduct research and talk to survivors. She then interviewed psychologists and historians to divilduge herself into the research and fully extend the abhorrent event. Finally, to conclude her research, she was locked in a former soviet prison to try and put herself in her characters shoes. Not only was Sepetys’ novel accurate to its social historical context, but it also gave insight on the “chapter of history that remained secret” (“Ruta” 3). It showed the ghastly “experiences of survivors who fled, faced forced deportation, and were deported”, the experiences Sepetys’ father and grandfather faced (“Ruta” 2). In respect to her first novel, Sepetys was honored with the Cross of the Knight of the Order by the Lithuanian government. After reading this piece, I realized that Sepetys had incorporated many artistic references into her first novel, Between Shades of Gray.
At first glance, I did not fully understand the significance of Lina, the main character, having a talent and interest in art. In addition, I could not fathom the importance of the art pieces she constantly drew to depict the severe hardships her and her family faced. However, after reading this academic article, I finally drew the connection. Ruta Sepetys grew up with art and literature being a prominent figure in her life, so she incorporated that in the novel partially based on her lineage. In addition to helping me understand the significance of the artistic components of the novel, Newsmakers’ work also helped me to draw connections to the reasonings behind the novel and the prominence of its accurate historical context. Zemaitis, Augustinas. “Geography of Lithuania” True Lithuania.
2017. Accessed 19 January. 2018. On his website, True Lithuania, Augustinas Zemaitis’ gives insight to readers regarding information pertaining to his native country. The Lithuanian attorney began the website in late 2012 and continues to update his site with current information deriving from books and the local community. In addition to this, Zemaitis prides himself on providing a “quality English language introduction” to current and previous Lithuanian geography, as well as information pertaining to various other topics (Zemaitis 1).
Zemaitis begins the article by discussing the temperate continental climate in the region. Due to the low population density, much of Lithuania is currently “covered by forests and agricultural pastures”, for not much agriculturally has changed since the mid 1990s (Zemaitis 1). In addition to this, Lithuania also has a very differentiating temperature range depending on the season.
Generally, the temperature can range between as low as -20 C in the winter, to a staggering high of 20 C in the summer months. Lithuanian terrain is also extremely flat with little to no tall hills and mountains. Due to this, the terrain is mainly lowland geography, consisting of mainly of plains and fields. The smaller country, located in near central Europe, borderders Russia, Latvia, Poland, and Belarus. Lithuania is approximately 25,200 square miles and is “divided into 10 apskritys”, also know as a country or region (Zemaitis 2). In addition to this, unlike other surrounding countries, Lithuania is then further “subdivided into 60 municipalities” (Zemaitis 2).
Located in Vilnius District Municipality lies the heart and soul of Lithuania, Vilnius. Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, commoderates both the old and new, combining modern aspects in the skyscraper district with older buildings in the old town, such as the Tuskul?nai Memorial. Also located in the capital is the Neris River, which connects two old Lithuanian capitals – Kernav? and Vilnius. Likewise to this river is the Nemus, the longest river in Lithuania, that eventually drains into the Baltic Sea. Lithuania’s proximity to this Sea group it with “Latvia and Estonia into the Baltic States” (Zemaitis 1). These three Baltic states also have similar lowland geography and land area, as previously mentioned. Depicted in the first few pages of the novel, Between Shades of Gray, is a map of Lithuania and the Soviet Union during the 1940s through the 1950s.
The map, helps the reader to comprehend the distance Lina and her family traveled during their imprisonment. The facts brought across in Zemaitis’ article pertaining to the geography of Lithuania have helped me to better understand and comprehend the map in the novel, as well as the climate conditions Lina and her family were prompted to. “Geography of Lithuania” conveyed the moderate conditions Lithuanians face and further showed how they are vastly different from those in Siberia. In addition to this, the map also shows the cities and geographical features the prisoners passed through on their long trek to Trofimovsk. Zemaitis, Augustinas. “Religion in Lithuania: An Introduction” True Lithuania.
2017. Accessed 21 January. 2018. In his article, “Religion in Lithuania: An Introduction”, Augustinas Zemaitis educates the reader on the major religions and belief systems in Lithuania, ranging between the 15th and 21st century. Zemaitis, local Lithuanian attorney offers a credible article pertaining specifically to the Roman Catholic religion. His work shows the country’s updated viewpoints on its religious beliefs from various state run websites, as well as his scholarly and college educated thoughts. He commences the article with explaining the diversity of the small country and its various major religions. It is after this, that Zemaitis introduces those.
major religious groupings in Lithuania: Roman Catholic, Russian Orothodoxy, Old Believers, and Lutherans. Despite these being the most prominent followings in Lithuania, other faiths considered traditional by the Lithuanian law include: Sunni Islam and Judaism. However, after listing the major religions of the nation, Zemaitis then goes on to describe that today, roughly “85% of Lithuanians are Roman Catholic” (Zemaitis 1). The Roman Catholic religion, associated closely with the Lithuanian culture, is not the official religion, for Lithuania has “no state religion”, but because it is the most prominent, it has many devoted followers (Zemaitis 1). Followers of this faith primarily read the bible and go to Sunday mass to learn its teachings and moral lessons. Roman Catholicism began to first emerge in the Lithuanian culture in the mid to late 15th century.
Many were able to easily identify with the Roman Catholic faith due to its formal teachings and followings of its religious book, the Bible. The Bible outlines the prominent viewpoints in the faith, including the 10 commandments and the belief in Jesus Christ, the savior. However, those followers of Roman Catholicism struggled to keep their faith with the In the early 1940s Catholicism served as the driving force defying Soviet occupation and eventually became known as “the defender of truth and human freedoms”, a name it lacks in western culture (Zemaitis 3). At the start of WWII, due to it being the major religion of Lithuania, “Roman Catholicism was the prime target of the Soviet anti-religious drive” (Zemaitis 4).
With the annexation, the Soviets began to close many churches and monasteries across Lithuania, as well as priceless works of art pertaining to the Catholic religion. Soon after independence these facilities began to slowly reopen; however, the followers were “nowhere as prevalent as they were before the occupation” (Zemaitis 4). Despite this, the small country still has a large outcome for its annual Christmas Eve and Epiphany Celebrations. The article depicted above give abundant insight on the Roman Catholic Religion and its various, teachings, beliefs, and history in the region. The article not only educates the reader on the Catholic religion, but also gives insight on various other religions and how they became accustomed to Lithuanian culture. Reading the article helped me to further understand the importance of the Christmas Eve celebration in the novel, Between Shades of Gray. In addition to this, it helps to convey why the NKVD officers were angered by the Christmas Eve get-together, because of their anti-religious views. Zemaitis, Augustinas.
“Politics in Lithuania: Introduction” True Lithuania. 2017. Accessed 24 January.
2018.Augustinas Zemaitis is a prominent Lithuanian attorney registered with the Lithuanian Bar Association. In addition to this, he is the writer and founder of the largest English website based in his local community, known as True Lithuania. Zemaitis prides himself on creating an exhaustive website including much information pertaining to all aspects of Lithuanian history, geography, culture. In addition to this, Zemaitis uses information acquired from his law profession, as well as detailed and local books to create a plausible article relating to Lithuanian government. Being a prominent figure in the Lithuanian justice system, Zemaitis is able to provide accurate and comprehensive facts regarding his field of work. Zemaitis begins the article with explaining the basic political systems of his native country.
Lithuania has been “a democratic country since 1990”, following its annexation into Soviet territory (Zemaitis 1). Therefore, the president is directly elected by the people and may be the most prominent political figure, but majority of the power rests with Semias, or the Lithuanian Parliament. Alike various European countries, Lithuania is divided along several main lines: “leftist vs. rightist economic viewpoints; pro-Western vs.
pro-Local vs. pro-Eastern value systems; authoritarian vs. libertarian opinions about personal freedoms” (Zemaitis 1). The most powerful institution on the Lithuanian government is parliament or “Semias” “Seimas is elected by two different systems”: 70 seats being elected by proportional representation and the remaining 71 are elected in separate constituencies (Zemaitis 1).