The guards toss soap at the women and spray them with icy water. Elena helps Lina and Ona wash. Then they leave the bathhouse and get dressed. Lina whispers to Elena that she wants to go home, and Elena tells her they must keep the dream of their home and of Kostas alive in order to persevere. The group reconvenes. The bald man complains they are now just clean dead men, but the older man says they wouldn’t have been washed if the NKVD wanted to kill them. Jonas asks Lina what is wrong, as she has been thinking about the guard groping her. She ignores him and squeezes the stone from Andrius for comfort. Andrius playfully notes that Lina’s hair is blond once the dirt has been washed away, though Lina instinctively pulls back when Andrius touches her.
Thankfully, the showers appear to be safe, and the women are able to clean themselves without further trouble from the NKVD guards. Lina doesn’t reveal to Jonas what happened, likely because she is unsure of how to process it herself, and to recite what happened out loud would make it seem more real. Andrius takes note of Lina’s appearance, something that makes her both happy and embarrassed, particularly since she has been noticing how handsome he is lately.
The group’s morale is raised after being cleansed, and they joke about the luxuries they now want, like a four-course meal. Only Ona has not been calmed, and she continues to chant and pull at her hair, despite Mrs. Rimas’ attempts to soothe her. A guard notices this and pulls Ona from the truck. She attacks him, and though Elena scrambles to pull her away, the guard shoots Ona in the head. Andrius urges Lina not to look at Ona’s body, but to look at him instead. The truck rolls away, leaving Ona’s body behind. Lina thinks of Ona’s daughter, decomposing in the grass miles away, just like Ona will. She wonders how her family will know what happened to her—or how people will know what happened to the Vilkases.
Though they have been witnessing horrors for weeks, Ona’s murder is one of the most shocking events that has happened to the group of deportees. It is one of the most enduring images from the book: a young, grieving mother, shot in the head for being an annoyance. It is done both because the NKVD have the power to commit such atrocities, and because they want to prove to the other deportees what can happen if they step out of line. Lina is horrified by the notion that none of Ona’s family will know how she perished.