Lina’s drawings create an important connection between her life back home in Lithuania and her life in the Communist labor camps of Siberia. As she continues to sketch wherever she can—in the dirt on the train, on handkerchiefs, on scraps of paper—she recalls moments when her drawings brought her praise (such as when she was admitted to an art program) and when they brought her scolding (when her father discovers her caricatures of Stalin). Drawing is what maintains constancy in Lina’s life, despite her location or situation. Her drawings are also a way for Lina to connect with her father—Lina hopes that by documenting her journey through sketches, the drawings may one day make their way to Kostas such that he can determine where she, Elena, and Jonas have been imprisoned. The artist Edvard Munch, best known for his painting “The Scream,” particularly inspires Lina. Like Munch, Lina seeks to use her drawings to convey her emotions and view of the world, rather than a realistic image of what the world looks like. Lina’s drawings symbolize her humanity and determination to have hope for the future despite the misery of her current situation.
Drawing Quotes in Between Shades of Gray
“You’re very brave to have come. You must all stay together. I know you’ll take good care of your sister and mother while I am away.”
“I will, Papa, I promise,” said Jonas. “When will we see you?”
Papa paused. “I don’t know. Hopefully soon.”
I clutched the bundle of clothes. Tears began dropping down my cheeks.
“Don’t cry, Lina. Courage,” said Papa. “You can help me.”
“Do you understand?” My father looked at Andrius, hesitant. “You can help me find you,” he whispered. “I’ll know it’s you…just like you know Munch. But you must be very careful.”
The man who wound his watch approached me.
“Do you have a handkerchief I could borrow?” he asked.
I nodded and quickly handed him the hankie, neatly folded to conceal my writing…The man patted his brow with the handkerchief before putting it in his pocket. Pass it along, I thought, imagining the hankie traveling hand to hand until it reached Papa.
My art teacher had said that if you breathed deeply and imagined something, you could be there. You could see it, feel it. During our standoffs with the NKVD, I learned to do that. I clung to my rusted dreams during the times of silence. It was at gunpoint that I fell into every hope and allowed myself to wish from the deepest part of my heart. Komorov thought he was torturing us. But we were escaping into a stillness within ourselves. We found strength here.
“Look at me,” whispered Andrius, moving close. “I’ll see you,” he said. “Just think about that. Just think about me bringing you your drawings. Picture it, because I’ll be there.”