They sail farther north, but no one knows where they are going. When they stop to load more supplies, they overhear Kretszky arguing with the commander that he wants to stay off of the barge. However, the commander insists. The passengers cheer when the barge pulls away, convinced they are going to America. When people still think that a week later, Kretszky yells that they are fools. They pass into the Arctic Circle, and in late August they reach the mouth of the River Lena, where the temperature is just above freezing. They hurry off the boat, but arrive to find a barren wasteland and two buildings—which are only for the NKVD officers. An officer calls them “fascist pigs who sleep in the mud,” and demands that they build a bakery and fish factory. It takes ten hours to unload the barge. A sign shows that they are at Trofimovsk, the top of the Arctic Circle near the North Pole.
Since their entire time under the NKVD has been so surreal, even deportees who have endured the worst suffering are convinced they are being sent to America—it really does feel like anything can happen. Lina is wary of this claim, since she doubts the NKVD would be keen to bring people they have been torturing to a land of greater opportunity. Unfortunately, her pessimism is warranted—they end up in an even colder and bleaker tundra than the one in Altai. Lina and the deportees have been brought to one of the coldest places on Earth in the NKVD’s hope that they will perish.