Shadows on the Tundra by Dalia Grinkevičiutė (tr. Delija Valiukenas)

a nutshell: a desolate piece of Lithuanian survival literature in which Dalia recounts her deportation, aged 14, to a Siberian gulag and the years of gruelling manual labour that followed in the Arctic tundra

a line“Images from the past can be more painful than a branding iron. They tear me apart. But they’ve also done me a favour. They’ve ignited a furious desire to live, to persevere…”

an image: Dalia’s appalling descriptions of gangrenous, immobile deportees disintegrating on their pallets or freezing to death with hallucinations of hot coffee in tortuous blizzards sear themselves onto the memory

a thought: reading her memories of such brutal suffering, it’s sad to note that Dalia never saw these pages come out into the open; fearful of the KGB, she buried the scraps of paper in a garden and it was only in 1991 – four years after her death – that they were found

a factmost of the fellow deportees depicted by Dalia are women and children, reflecting how 70% of the 130,000+ people among the Soviet mass deportations from Lithuania were women and children


want to read Shadows on the Tundra? visit here

The Unwomanly Face of War by Svetlana Alexievich (tr. Pevear & Volokhonsky)

a nutshell: a history book like no other, Alexievich seeks out & shares voices of Soviet women who lived WW2 on front lines, the home front & in occupied territories; their stories are utterly crushing, occasionally joyous, fixedly unforgettable 

a line: “Give her a man’s haircut.” “But she’s a woman.” “No, she’s a soldier. She’ll be a woman again after the war”

an image: a medical assistant remembers the death of a soldier she loved and her surprise at realising the others knew she loved him – she recalls smiling with hope that he too knew it, and her first ever kiss is a goodbye kiss at his burial

a thought: many testimonies are from women who were just 16 or 17 when they joined the war effort; some even talk of having “grown” – physically – in the field

a fact: over 500,000 Soviet women participated on a par with men in WW2


want to read The Unwomanly Face of War? visit here