Shadows on the Tundra by Dalia Grinkevičiūtė

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shadows on the Tundra by Dalia Grinkevičiūtė

Lithuanian fiction

Original title –  Lietuviai prie Laptevų jūros

Translator Delija Valiukenas

Source = personal copy

I am trying to fill in the gaps for the Peirene books I haven’t read here is another.from their Home in Exile series and a work from  Dalia Grinkevičiūtė she wrote on scraps of paper after her escape and return to her homeland from a Gulag and then buried the book was discovered in a Jar four years after her death. She spent time in gulags first with her family in the war years this is the period covered in the book. Then later on in the ’50s by herself. But also became a doctor on her return to Lithuania. This book is now considered part of the national canon of Lituania.

I’m touching something. It feels like cold iron. I’m lying on my back …. How beautiful … the sunlight …and the shadow

I am aware tgat a phase of my life has come to an end, a line dran underneath it. Another i beginning, uncertain and ominous. Twenty four people lie nearby. Asleep? who knows? Each of them has their own thoughts. Each is leaving behind a life that ended yesterday. Each has a family, relatives, friends, They’re all saying goodbye t their loved ones. Suddenly the train jolts. Something falls from the upper bunk No one is asleep now. Silence I dress hurriedly- I have to say goodbye to Kaunas

The opening as she is on the train heading she doesn’t know where

The book follows Dalia her mother and her older brother as the family is wrenched out of their home in Kanuas and deported by the regime as she joins a lot of fellow Lithuanians on a train covered so no-one knows where they are going. The journey last weeks as they are spilt in to groups as they are sorted and divide. The conditions on board  are horrid on board. They have dreams they are heading to America but end up by a river and in some wooden huts trying to keep together sing national songs they get wood from the forest and try to get by but this is shortlived now on a barge they finally reach the Artic and the tundra is a  wasteland freezing as they are dressed in the clothes for a Baltic summer and now have to work building a fish processing factory. Hundreds die that first winter but Dalia manages to get through. This is very hard work as they live in simple jurt with next to no clothes as the winter draws in and those around her start to fall apart she has a overwhelm spirit of hope that shines through her words As we see the dark underbelly of the Soviet regime and how it tried to break the people from the Baltic states.

I look around and am chiled to the bone. Far and wide, tundra, naked tundra, not a sprig of vegetation, just moss as far as the eye can see. In the distance, I notice something tat looks like a small hill of crosses. We learn that these are the graves of the Finns. Two weeks ago, they were brought in from Leningrad already debilitated as a result of the blockade, starved and suffering from typhus, and now they are dying, suddenly, I’m gripped by rear. What if this becomes a “death Zavod” rather than a “fish zavod” ? I hear the steamer sound ger horn and start to move, manoeuvring our empty barges through a maze of rafts .

They arrive on the island and the horror of this world faces her the line about the crosses in just twoi weeks is chilling !!

it is great when works like this are found that pay testament to the hardship of the Soviet-era regime. It is like a Soviet Anne frank they both share that hope of spirit that gives them such hope for the future no matter how horrific their present is. The Gulag has been well documented in the work of the great Russian writers Solzhenitsyn and Kochergin A day in the life and Christened with crosses are two powerful works. I covered Midnight in the century by Victor Serge that followed another writer being in Exile. The world she wrote about is so well written the biting cold the fish factory being built the starving the being looked down on by locals on the island that view these prisoners from around the soviet states as underlings. Powerful work and so thankful it survived discovery from the KGB.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. 1streading
    Aug 30, 2019 @ 19:18:41

    The story of the book is almost as good as the book itself! I also found this a powerful work – well done to Peirene for publishing it.

    Reply

  2. Lisa Hill
    Aug 31, 2019 @ 02:53:19

    It sounds like an interesting contrast with Zuleikha, which is a current release, a novel written by the granddaughter of one of the Kulaks deported to Siberia. What was unexpected in that was that, based on this grandmother’s reflections in old age, the author shows that there were some benefits for peasant women under the Soviets, even in extreme situations like deportation to Siberia. The book certainly doesn’t whitewash the horrors, but it shows that for women who were brutalised under the patriarchal rule of peasants, life in Siberia offered a kind of autonomy because everyone was equal in the struggle for survival. I reviewed it here: https://anzlitlovers.com/2019/04/01/zuleikha-a-novel-by-guzel-yakhina-translated-by-lisa-c-hayden/

    Reply

  3. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Aug 31, 2019 @ 16:38:16

    This is a Peirene I’m really keen to read!

    Reply

  4. Trackback: That was the month that was August 2019 | Winstonsdad's Blog

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