At sunrise the deportees are sent back to work. Lina, Jonas, and Elena clean up and head to work. As they walk to the pit, they see the body of a man with a stake through it pinned to the side of the kolkhoz office. Buzzards peck at his bloody body. Mrs. Rimas whispers that he was caught writing a letter to the partisans, the Lithuanian freedom fighters, indicating where they had been sent. The letter is tacked up next to the man—on it is a very crude drawing of a map with just a few lines. Lina thinks of her own detailed diagrams in horror. Lina wishes she could go to the village and buy food or send letters. Mrs. Rimas says she will ask the woman she lives with, and Elena warns her to be careful.
This is one of the most enduring images in the novel. It is frightening because Lina, our protagonist, is an avid documentarian of her own life via drawing, and soon she will begin to write down her experiences as well. Information (here in the form of a drawing) and words, rather than specific acts, are the number one thing that can get people killed in the labor camp. This image is reminiscent of Jesus on the cross, since the man has to an extent been crucified for trying to help his fellow people.
The women go and dig in the pit for a time. Then the commander comes and demands that the women get into the hole. Komorov, the commander, points pistols at the women and tells them to put their hands on their heads and to lie down as he circles the hole. Elena tells Lina she loves her as Mrs. Rimas starts to recite a prayer. The commander shoots into the hole and laughs, kicking dirt onto their bodies and faces. Lina tries not to suffocate. When the shooting stops they lay silently. Eventually they sit up and Elena frantically wipes dirt off of Lina’s face. She says everything is okay, the commander is just trying to scare them into signing the documents. The blond guard Kretszky helps Lina out of the hole. They dig in silence for the rest of the day.
In this moment, the women are absolutely certain that they are about to be executed and that it is just as Lina feared: they have been digging their own graves. This is one of the cruelest things that the NKVD do to Lina throughout the novel. The commander is only torturing the women for his own enjoyment, and to punish them for not having signed the documents the night before. This is an act of such horror that it terrifies and shocks even Kretszky.