It is March 22, Lina’s 16th birthday, and Lina presumes everyone has forgotten, particularly since there is little to celebrate. Lina recalls her previous birthdays, filled with family, friends, food, and presents. While Lina is in line for her ration, Jonas tells her to hurry to the bald man’s shack, since Mrs. Rimas had received a thick letter from Lithuania.
Though Lina is sad that there is no pomp and circumstance on her birthday, she understands that it is because they have very little to celebrate in their lives. Lina’s reminiscence on her previous birthdays is bittersweet.
When Lina arrives at the shack, everyone shouts “Happy birthday”—it was a surprise party all along. Everyone sings and eats their bread together, and shares stories of their own sixteenth birthdays. Everyone has chipped in and gotten Lina a pad of paper and a pencil stub to draw with. On the way back to the shack, Andrius approaches Lina and gives her Dombey and Son, a Charles Dickens novel, as a birthday present. It’s in Russian, and Andrius teases her that she now has to learn the language. Overwhelmed by the present, Lina pulls Andrius’ face to hers and kisses him. Andrius remains sitting, stunned. He tells Lina that his birthday is November twentieth.
Much like the Christmas Kucios celebration, the deportees are determined to do what they can to keep morale high and to remind themselves that they are deserving of love and happiness. In a labor camp where there is very little in the way of resources, particularly of food and presents, the gifts Lina is given for her birthday represent extreme acts of kindness, love, and understanding by their givers. It is this display of emotion, particularly by Andrius, that gives Lina the courage to kiss him.