Lina Vilkas is fifteen years old when she and her family are deported from their comfortable middle class home in Lithuania in 1941. Her father Kostas, a professor at the local university, is accused… read analysis of Lina Vilkas
Elena Vilkas is Lina’s mother, and is still a woman in the prime of her life when she is deported from her home in Lithuania. Though she is a homemaker and relies on Kostas… read analysis of Elena Vilkas
Jonas, Lina’s brother, is ten years old when he is deported. Sweet and caring in his nature, Jonas’ purity is exemplified from the start of the novel, when he dresses neatly for school as… read analysis of Jonas Vilkas
Kostas is Lina and Jonas’ father, and a professor at the local university. Though he is only seen in one episode throughout the novel, Lina often reminisces of good times she had with her… read analysis of Kostas Vilkas
Andrius is the son of a military officer, and similar in age to Lina. The two teenagers meet on the train towards Siberia. Andrius’ mother, who has spared her son from being imprisoned with… read analysis of Andrius Arvydas
Andrius’ mother is the attractive wife of a Lithuanian officer who is believed to be dead. She and her son are extremely protective of each other, and Mrs. Arvydas agrees to sleep with NKVD… read analysis of Mrs. Arvydas
Mr. Stalas (The Bald Man)
Better known to Lina as “the bald man,” Mr. Stalas is a postman who is placed in the same train car as the Vilkases when they are deported. He is an extremely pessimistic person, and… read analysis of Mr. Stalas (The Bald Man)
Miss Grybas is a strict teacher from the school that Lina and Jonas attend. She takes charge of engaging the children so that they have something to think about apart from the horror of their… read analysis of Miss Grybas
A young woman who is thrown onto the train car just moments after giving birth. Her newborn child dies on the train, and Ona goes crazy with grief. She attacks an officer who tries to… read analysis of Ona
A young girl who is deported along with her family. Janina loses her doll, and often pretends that the doll’s ghost speaks to her. She, like Jonas, develops scurvy and is only saved at… read analysis of Janina
A blonde NKVD soldier who seems to take pleasure in torturing Lina, Elena, and the other deportees. Under circumstances Lina does not fully understand, Elena manages to strike up a friendship with Kretszky… read analysis of Nikolai Kretszky
Komorov (The Commander)
The commander of the NKVD unit that deports the Vilkases. He is the personification of evil in Lina’s mind. Komorov shoots Ona, demands that the deportees sign paperwork agreeing to their criminal charges… read analysis of Komorov (The Commander)
A librarian who, like Miss Grybas, helps to engage the children of the deportees.Like Elena,she has been separated from her husband and does not know where he is.She remains with the Vilkases in both labor camps,and often helps the family in times of need, particularly in Elena’s last days.
A “brown-toothed” NKVD guard who sadistically enjoys torturing the prisoners.
A doctor who comes and saves the lives of weak deportees after Kretszky defects from the camp and alerts superiors to the horrible conditions in Siberia. Sepetys notes in her “Afterwards” that he is based on a real life person.
The Altaian woman the Vilkases are forced to live with in their first labor camp. Though she is often mean, stingy, and demands arbitrary amounts of goods for rent, when the Vilkases are sent to a new camp, she loads their baggage with gifts of food for the journey.