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Cynthia Danute Cekauskas, LCSW "Lithuanian American Princess" RSS Feed (Savannah, Georgia)

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Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II (General Military)
Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II (General Military)
Price: $8.69

3.0 out of 5 stars Long overdue, well researched in some areas but inaccurate and incomplete in others., November 9, 2014
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This is a book which should have been researched, written and published years ago. Growing up in Detroit, Michigan,the daughter of Lithuanian refugees I was stunned at how little other students (even teachers) knew about the history of Eastern Europe let alone the Baltic states. As the author states in the Preface "The destruction and suffering endured by many nations during the Second World War are beyond question, but often the scale of the numbers involved can reduce their impact. The German atrocities in the Soviet Union, followed by Soviet atrocities in Germany are well known and widely documented, but in terms of the proportion of the population lost, the countries caught between these powerful protagonists--Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia--suffered far more than any other. Whilst the deaths in Poland are relatively well known, the suffering of the Baltic States is rarely mentioned, even though their population loss, at roughly 20 per cent was higher than that of any other country other than Poland."

Indeed the author wrote in great detail about the battle for the Baltics between the Germans and the Russians. There was no question by the middle of the book that it was a comprehensive accounting of how the two Superpowers clashed over their desire to occupy, possess and "convert" their occupied territories to conform to their ideals of the "good Nazi" or the "good Communist". Along the way many people were to be murdered outright often after being tortured, deported in cattlecars to forced labor camps in Sibera where thousands would die (without the West knowing a thing about it) or (like my parents) being forced to flee for their lives. Neither the German nor the Russian occupations were in the end to produce any lasting good results for their occupied peoples.

My problem with the book, however, begins with the Aftermath where the author seemed to take the position of the Russian occupiers of the Baltic states. I found it objectionable, for instance, that he resorted to citing ONLY what RUSSIAN writers thought had happened at the time. The FACT that, after the Yalta conference, the three Baltic States were left entirely to Stalin's control was NOT explained in any detail. It is significant that, on Stalin's orders, the Soviets carried out a program of genocide in 1941, 1944, 1948, and throughout the 1950's with the goal of subduing the local population and integrating it into the Soviet Union. Those who resisted were disposed of by being transported via cattle car to hard labor camps in Siberia. During these years the Soviets deported about 130,000 people from Lithuania ....In total about 118,599 Lithuanias died there. How can any of these Russian writers, the author cites, justify this and how can this author cite them with authority? He quotes them by writing "Many Russian writers, including those who have been active after the fall of the Soviet Union, have criticized what they see as Baltic 'ideology' or "dogma", for example in connection with the Soviet deportations during 1941 and after the war. Starting from the point of view that the Soviet occupation of the Baltic States was a legal event, Russian historians often regard the actions of the Soviet regime in safeguarding its rule as entirely legitimate. The deporations are seen as being no different in principle to the internment of civilians from Axis nations in Britain and in the United States during the war.' The author, to my surprise, seems to be backing this view NOT acknowledging that the occupation WAS, in fact, an ILLEGAL one and that the people of the Baltic nations-Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians have their own language, culture and history that is NOT AT ALL Russian. How can ANYONE compare the Americans sending Germans or Japanese to internment camps to the Russians sending Baltic peoples to Siberia where so many of them died? The Baltics were an OCCUPIED land not Russia itself. Rather than refuting these Russian authors this author seems to be supporting their point of view!

Furthermore, the attempted discrediting of thousands upon thousands of Lithuanian partisans (patriots) who fought for their country against Russian occupiers as late as 1965 when the last of their number was murdered, is outrageous to me, the daughter of Lithuanian refugees (formerly displaced persons) of the American occupied zone of Germany. The author again takes the Russian position by stating "It is felt in Russia,,,Many of those fighting against Soviet authorities...were not doing so solely--or even primarily--for patriotic' reasons. Some were deserters or were involved in plain criminal activities..." THIS COULD NOT BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH! Fulbright scholar, Laima Vince, in fact, writes that "As a result of the armed resistance, Lithuania was the least colonized of the three Baltic states and the most successful in retaining its ethnic heritage. The collectivization of farms was delayed in post-war Lithuania. The partisans sometimes attacked and temporarily controlled smaller cities, successfully interrupting the Communist elections in 1946, kept people informed about international events through their underground press, and tried to maintain order and morale in the remote areas of Lithuania." This, the author of Between Giants: The Battle for the Baltics in World War II (General Military), did NOT explain and should have. In fact while he takes the time to cite the position of Russian authorities, he does NOT even reference the recently re-released book of a true Lithuanian patriot--one of the most famous partisans of them all--Juozas Luksa-- who write the book Forest Brothers: The Account of an Anti-soviet Lithuanian Freedom Fighter, 1944-1948. This man gave an eyewitness account of how horribly Lithuanian partisans, who were NOT criminals but the sons of farmers, some college students, some young men (AND women) refusing to fight for the Soviet Union which had occupied their country, were treated. At this point the author seems dangerously close to coming across as a closet Communist!

In conclusion I feel that a book that should have been written, COULD have been an outstanding account had it not taken such an ugly bias. It is clear that a lot of research was done in detailing the military battles but the author was WAY off the mark when it came to his characterization of the Lithuanian anti-Soviet freedom fighter partisans.


Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House
Misdiagnosed: The Search for Dr. House
by M. C. Beamon
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.46
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A painfully honest and revealing book about what it is like to live with a rare chronic illness., September 25, 2014
I can only assume from reading this very revealing book that it is the life story of the author herself. It is clearly written from the heart and, in my opinion, only a person who had suffered so many years of a mysterious and seemingly impossible illness to diagnose could write such a book.

This is the story of Nika Beamon, an African-American woman who for years suffered from a number of troublesome symptoms which often left her bleeding, in pain, dehydrated, unable to eat, for periods of time to weak to be able to work, to engage in a longlasting, meaningful relationships, in short, to have a normal life. The book reveals how for many years she was routed from doctor to doctor, having to endure one medical test after another, a number of them most uncomfortable, if not painful, prescribed a multitude of medication with only minimal symptomatic relief and, in the end, often "misdiagnosed." Nika is impressive, however, enduring all that she must endure in order to get answers epitomizing what the philosopher Nietzche once said "That which does not kill me makes me stronger". In all her years of struggle she never forgets her grandmother Nettie's advice she received after she finally found out what was wrong with her: "At least you know something is wrong with you, so there is a chance they can fix it. Have faith, with God, everything is possible. If not, its' his will. You can still make the most of the time you have been given."

I agree that this book was very well written. It held my interest much more than a number of books I have read over the years. The point was made that 12 million Americans, in fact, are misdiagnosed every year: one in 20 patients! They too have struggled and suffered without any longlasting relief. The book seems to reach out to these people to say "Yes, I know. I struggled with it too and this is what I learned". At the conclusion of the book, the author does, in fact, list Resources or "several steps that can help anyone who falls ill" with references to such organizatons as the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association, The Conill Institute for Chronic Illness and the National Organization for Rare Illnesses. She also includes a recommended reading list, "Tips for Ensuring You Get the Best Medical Care", "Five Tips for Someone Caring for a Chronically Ill Person" and "Guide Questions for Misdiagnosed". In concluding I can HIGHLY recommend this book ESPECIALLY for those suffering from autoimmune illnesses such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis or anyone suffering from mysterious and troublesome chronic ilness from which they never seem to get any longlasting relief.


The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West
The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West
by Edward Lucas
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.20
25 used & new from $11.19

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read. One not to be missed. A warning of a formerly Communist system morphed into Putinist tyranny., August 29, 2014
This is an incredible book, one of which I was very happy to find out about. This third and newest edition includes a new preface on the Crimean crisis. Like the older editions,it describes in great detail the circumstances in Russia at the time the book was originally copyrighted (2008,2009), when one Vladimir Putin came to power to destroy what progress Russia had made towards becoming as democratic a country as possible after years of authoritarian rule dominated by Communist ideology. I see the book as a warning. After the recent illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russians and their invasion of the Ukraine just days ago, one can see why. It is a call to action. As the author put it: "a central message of this book is that the world's richest and strongest free countries must stand behind these small states now under threat from Russia. It may be inconvenient, costly, or even painful to do so, but if we do not win the New Cold War, on terms of our choosing, we will fight at a time and place chosen by our adversary, and the odds will be tilted against us." This is, after all, how Adolph Hitler launched the world into World War II when the most able countries that could have stood up to his tyranny just passively stood by and let it happen.

True, I may have a more personal interest in this book then some. My parents, after all, were refugees from one of the Baltic nations (Lithuania) that this author writes about. They were among the almost one million people (some 1/3 of the TOTAL population of that small country) that were either arrested, executed, deported to Siberia (in cattle cars to work themselves to death in frigid temperatures with little food). or displaced (forced to leave the country of their birth) while the West stood by not even aware of what "Uncle Joe" Stalin was doing to a whole section of Europe. For them, because the war was over in Western Europe, therefore it was over in the world. For Eastern Europe this was just the beginning of the end. Communist occupation meant death for millions. Now, after successfully regaining their independence in 1991, the Baltic states are again being threatened. After breaking free from the chains of Soviet oppression, they have been recovering very nicely much to the chagrin of one Vladimir Putin. As the author writes about the Baltics already in the Introduction of the book "They are the Soviet satellites whose loss the Kremlin resents most sharply. Their thriving economies and lively open societies are a constant and glaring contrast to the authoritarian capitalism across the border...Putin,,,says the collapse of the Soviet Union was the "greatest geo-political catastrophe" of the twentieth century....Although the Balts are small in population terms, they are members--and loyal and active ones at that--of NATO and the EU....Rather like West Berlin in the days of the old Cold War, the Baltic states are militarily indefensible but symbolically vital: if they succumb to Russian pressure, who will be next? This has not deterred the Kremlin, which is determined both to divide them and to isolate them....If Russia gets what it wants in the Caucuses or the Baltics, the Balkans and Central Europe will be next. And what then? The Arctic? Western Europe? Slice by slice, the Kremlin is adding to its sphere of influence."

I, therefore, thank the author, Edward Lucas, who has covered Eastern Europe for THE ECONOMIST for over twenty years. He (along with my husband, a proud retired American soldier and myself a proud American Navy Hospital Corpsman veteran) "witnessed the end of the Cold War, the parting of the Iron Curtain" and, "as Moscow bureau chief, covered Boris Yeltsin's demise and Vladimir Putin's rise to power." By writing this book he is trying to educate the world's public on what is REALLY going on in Russia these days and that we SHOULD BE AFRAID, should take the proper steps to keeping yet another dictator from continuing his rise to power and causing another world war--one that, this time, may destroy us all.


The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West
The New Cold War: Putin's Russia and the Threat to the West
by Edward Lucas
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.74
74 used & new from $0.73

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read. One not to be missed. A warning of a formerly Communist system morphed into Putinist tyranny., August 29, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is an incredible book, one of which I was very happy to find out about. Although this edition is a few years old, it describes in great detail the circumstances in Russia at the time the book was copyrighted (2008,2009), when one Vladimir Putin came to power to destroy what progress Russia had made towards becoming as democratic a country as possible after years of authoritarian rule dominated by Communist ideology. I see the book as a warning. After the recent illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russians and their invasion of the Ukraine just days ago, one can see why. It is a call to action. As the author put it: "a central message of this book is that the world's richest and strongest free countries must stand behind these small states now under threat from Russia. It may be inconvenient, costly, or even painful to do so, but if we do not win the New Cold War, on terms of our choosing, we will fight at a time and place chosen by our adversary, and the odds will be tilted against us." This is, after all, how Adolph Hitler launched the world into World War II when the most able countries that could have stood up to his tyranny just passively stood by and let it happen.

True, I may have a more personal interest in this book then some. My parents, after all, were refugees from one of the Baltic nations (Lithuania) that this author writes about. They were among the almost one million people (some 1/3 of the TOTAL population of that small country) that were either arrested, executed, deported to Siberia (in cattle cars to work themselves to death in frigid temperatures with little food). or displaced (forced to leave the country of their birth) while the West stood by not even aware of what "Uncle Joe" Stalin was doing to a whole section of Europe. For them, because the war was over in Western Europe, therefore it was over in the world. For Eastern Europe this was just the beginning of the end. Communist occupation meant death for millions. Now, after successfully regaining their independence in 1991, the Baltic states are again being threatened. After breaking free from the chains of Soviet oppression, they have been recovering very nicely much to the chagrin of one Vladimir Putin. As the author writes about the Baltics already in the Introduction of the book "They are the Soviet satellites whose loss the Kremlin resents most sharply. Their thriving economies and lively open societies are a constant and glaring contrast to the authoritarian capitalism across the border...Putin,,,says the collapse of the Soviet Union was the "greatest geo-political catastrophe" of the twentieth century....Although the Balts are small in population terms, they are members--and loyal and active ones at that--of NATO and the EU....Rather like West Berlin in the days of the old Cold War, the Baltic states are militarily indefensible but symbolically vital: if they succumb to Russian pressure, who will be next? This has not deterred the Kremlin, which is determined both to divide them and to isolate them....If Russia gets what it wants in the Caucuses or the Baltics, the Balkans and Central Europe will be next. And what then? The Arctic? Western Europe? Slice by slice, the Kremlin is adding to its sphere of influence."

I, therefore, thank the author, Edward Lucas, who has covered Eastern Europe for THE ECONOMIST for over twenty years. He (along with my husband, a proud retired American soldier and myself a proud American Navy Hospital Corpsman veteran) "witnessed the end of the Cold War, the parting of the Iron Curtain" and, "as Moscow bureau chief, covered Boris Yeltsin's demise and Vladimir Putin's rise to power." By writing this book he is trying to educate the world's public on what is REALLY going on in Russia these days and that we SHOULD BE AFRAID, should take the proper steps to keeping yet another dictator from continuing his rise to power and causing another world war--one that, this time, may destroy us all.


A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power
A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power
by Jimmy Carter
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.50
129 used & new from $5.73

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very impressive, a most important book, long overdue., August 4, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I decided to purchase a copy of this book after witnessing former President Jimmy Carter interviewed recently on Jon Stewart's DAILY SHOW. As a practicing Catholic, believer in Jesus Christ and a former social work educator on the subject of domestic violence prevention, I have often wondered why the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) does not really address the historical abuse of women. Instead as our author writes "some selected scriptures, are interpreted almost exclusively by powerful male leaders within the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Budhist, and other faiths, to proclaim the lower status of women and girls. This claim that women are inferior before God spreads to the secular world to justify gross and sustained acts of discrimination and violence against them. This includes unpunished rape and other sexual abuse, infanticide of newborn girls and abortion of female fetuses, a worldwide trafficking in women and girls, and so-called honor killings of innocent women who are raped, as well as the less violent but harmful practices of lower pay and promotion for women and greater political advantages for men." HOW RIGHT YOU ARE former President Jimmy Carter. Alas but your words are not new. I once heard this years ago in a Minority Relations class I took in high school where I brought a speaker from the National Organization of Women to present before our class. It has been 42 years since this speaker gave this talk but I never forgot it. She was a woman, of course, concerned for the future of her own gender. This is the FIRST time I have read a book written by a man concerned for the future of women in our world.

I often tell people that although I am NOT a religious fundamentalist, DO NOT believe that every word in the Bible was written for people of ALL time, I DO believe that Jesus Christ in coming to spread the Word in bringing a "new" testament became (and still is) a a Super Star for ALL women. That is why I was so delighted when former President Carter wrote in Chapter 3 The Bible and Gender Equality of this book "Jesus Christ was the greatest liberator of women in a society where they had been considered throughout biblical history to be inferior. Even wives and widows of prominent and revered men had few legal rights. It is well known to those familiar with the Bible that, to enhance his own well-being the patriarch Abraham, gave away his wife, Sarah, to live in the harem of the pharaoh of Egypt and later attempted to give her away to the heathen king Abimelech, claiming both times that she was not his wife but his sister. Men could possess multiple wives (King Solomon had three hundred wives and seven hundred concumbines), but a woman could be punished by stoning to death if she had more than one sex partner.There is one incontrovertible fact concerning the relationship between Jesus Christ and women:he treated them as equal to men, which was dramatically different from the prevailing custom of the times....never...any instance of Jesus' condoning sexual discrimination or the implied subservience or inferiority of women....Matthew even includes four gentile women (all of whom had extramarital affairs) among the ancestors of Christ: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. The exaltation and later devotion to Mary, as Jesus' mother, is a vivid indication of the special status of women in Christian theology....Despite the strict prohobition against a Jewish man dealing with women in public, Jesus had no hesitancy about conversing the community well with a Samaritan woman who was a pariah both among Jews and her peers because of her ethnicity and lascivicous behavior. She accepted him as the promised Messiah and took his message back to her village--the first example of an evagelical witness. Jesus also rejected the double standard of punishment for adultery, by granting both a pardon and forgiveness to a guilty and condemned woman." I WILL NEVER FORGET the impression I had of Jesus as he was portrayed in the 1960's classic KING OF KINGS--the part where he turned to the crowds, breaking with convention, and stated firmly "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." These are words that have resonated with many women for hundreds of years, continue to do so now and WILL always have that effect. I just thank the author of this book, President Jimmy Carter, for reminding me exactly why I have ALWAYS thought that Jesus Christ was my personal Super Star!
The book, as a whole, consists of eighteen chapters including chapters on Sexual Abuse and Rape, Women and the Carter Center, Slavery and Prostitution, Spouse Abuse, 'Honor' Killing, Genital Cutting, Child Marriage and Dowry Deaths, Politics, Pay and Maternal Health and the Road to Progress. There is much in the book about the testimony of a number of religious leaders, scholars and activists former President Carter brought together in June of 2013 for the purpose of working together "to align religious and political life with full equality for girls and women." The book is EXTREMELY well done and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. Thank you, so much, former President Jimmy Carter for finally writing SUCH an important book. God bless you and yours.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 22, 2014 4:50 PM PDT


Between Shades Of Gray by Sepetys, Ruta (2011)
Between Shades Of Gray by Sepetys, Ruta (2011)
2 used & new from $17.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully written, heartbreaking and dramatic story based on true events., July 15, 2014
Although this most impressive novel was written using fictional characters (the plot created) the events on which it is based are most certainly true. In her Author's Note Ruta Sepetys explains that in 1939 the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Not long after, the Kremlin drew up lists of people considered anti-Soviet who Sepetys accurately states "would be murdered, sent to prison, or deported into slavery in Siberia. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, military servicemen, writers, business owners, musicians, artists, and even librarians were all considered anti-Soviet and were added to the growing list slated for wholesale genocide. The first deporations took place on June 14, 1941."

This is a particularly meaningful story to me because my own family had members who were forcibly deported to Siberia and suffered the deaths of people they dearly loved. Fortunately for the author's father (and my own parents) they (and their families) were able to escape to refugee camps set up in the American occupied zone of Germany. My maternal great aunt and her family with four daughters, however, were not so lucky. They did end up getting deported to Siberia, the two oldest girls literally worked to death dying of cold and starvation.

I love the incredibly empathic way in which this novel was written. It is written in the first person ("as told by") a 15-old-girl named Lina, who instead of heading for art school found herself forced into a train heading into the far reaches of the Soviet Union. Packed into railroad cars, starved for food, fresh air, even bathroom facilities these people, like the Jews in many parts of Europe, were stripped of their homes, their possessions, their very lives. It was painful to realize that, in many cases, the oppressors themselves were being fed and supplied by Americans who were too uninformed, too naive or simply had no wish to know what was going on. As they made their way east young children and the elderly started to die. Their bodies were literally tossed from train cars "swept clean" not even given the dignity of a burial. Before the journey begins Lina risks death by trying to find her father who has been placed into another train car headed for a prison where later she finds out he is shot. It is at this time she meets another teenager, a young man named Arvydas, for whom she develops a liking. Her group of people were first sent to one forced labor camp and then to another. In the second camp, located near the Arctic circle where the weather is especially harsh, Lina suffers the loss of her own mother. This part of the book is written particularly well because it evokes such deep emotion that the tears cannot help but fall.

Although Hitler's mass destruction of six million Jews (and at least three million non-Jewish individuals) is a most unquestionably horrible set of events, I have often wondered why more attenton has not been given to the TWENTY million that Stalin murdered in his own country. Again the author reminds me that "Upon returning in the mid-1950's, the Lithuanians found that Soviets had occupied their homes, were enjoying all of their belongings, and had even assumed their names. Everything was lost. The returning deportees were treated as criminals. They were forced to live in restricted areas, and were under constant surveillance by the KGB, formerly the NKVD. Speaking about their experience meant immediate imprisonment or deportation back to Siberia. As a result, the horrors they endured went dormant, a hideous secret shared by millions of people."

As a Lithuanian-American I am so DEEPLY grateful that Ruta Sepetys wrote this book. She explains how carefully she researched it by several visits to Lithuania where she interviewed survivors of this horrible ordeal. My only regret is that someone had not written this book YEARS earlier. These people's (MY people's) story needed to be told. The author honored their memory by doing just that.. Sirdingai aciu. (My sincerest thank you). Tegul Dievas tave palaimina Ruta (May God bless you Ruta).


Between Shades of Gray by Sepetys, Ruta 1st (first) Edition [Hardcover(2011)]
Between Shades of Gray by Sepetys, Ruta 1st (first) Edition [Hardcover(2011)]
20 used & new from $2.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully written, heartbreaking and dramatic story based on true events., July 15, 2014
Although this most impressive novel was written using fictional characters (the plot created) the events on which it is based are most certainly true. In her Author's Note Ruta Sepetys explains that in 1939 the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Not long after, the Kremlin drew up lists of people considered anti-Soviet who Sepetys accurately states "would be murdered, sent to prison, or deported into slavery in Siberia. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, military servicemen, writers, business owners, musicians, artists, and even librarians were all considered anti-Soviet and were added to the growing list slated for wholesale genocide. The first deporations took place on June 14, 1941."

This is a particularly meaningful story to me because my own family had members who were forcibly deported to Siberia and suffered the deaths of people they dearly loved. Fortunately for the author's father (and my own parents) they (and their families) were able to escape to refugee camps set up in the American occupied zone of Germany. My maternal great aunt and her family with four daughters, however, were not so lucky. They did end up getting deported to Siberia, the two oldest girls literally worked to death dying of cold and starvation.

I love the incredibly empathic way in which this novel was written. It is written in the first person ("as told by") a 15-old-girl named Lina, who instead of heading for art school found herself forced into a train heading into the far reaches of the Soviet Union. Packed into railroad cars, starved for food, fresh air, even bathroom facilities these people, like the Jews in many parts of Europe, were stripped of their homes, their possessions, their very lives. It was painful to realize that, in many cases, the oppressors themselves were being fed and supplied by Americans who were too uninformed, too naive or simply had no wish to know what was going on. As they made their way east young children and the elderly started to die. Their bodies were literally tossed from train cars "swept clean" not even given the dignity of a burial. Before the journey begins Lina risks death by trying to find her father who has been placed into another train car headed for a prison where later she finds out he is shot. It is at this time she meets another teenager, a young man named Arvydas, for whom she develops a liking. Her group of people were first sent to one forced labor camp and then to another. In the second camp, located near the Arctic circle where the weather is especially harsh, Lina suffers the loss of her own mother. This part of the book is written particularly well because it evokes such deep emotion that the tears cannot help but fall.

Although Hitler's mass destruction of six million Jews (and at least three million non-Jewish individuals) is a most unquestionably horrible set of events, I have often wondered why more attenton has not been given to the TWENTY million that Stalin murdered in his own country. Again the author reminds me that "Upon returning in the mid-1950's, the Lithuanians found that Soviets had occupied their homes, were enjoying all of their belongings, and had even assumed their names. Everything was lost. The returning deportees were treated as criminals. They were forced to live in restricted areas, and were under constant surveillance by the KGB, formerly the NKVD. Speaking about their experience meant immediate imprisonment or deportation back to Siberia. As a result, the horrors they endured went dormant, a hideous secret shared by millions of people."

As a Lithuanian-American I am so DEEPLY grateful that Ruta Sepetys wrote this book. She explains how carefully she researched it by several visits to Lithuania where she interviewed survivors of this horrible ordeal. My only regret is that someone had not written this book YEARS earlier. These people's (MY people's) story needed to be told. The author honored their memory by doing just that.. Sirdingai aciu. (My sincerest thank you). Tegul Dievas tave palaimina Ruta (May God bless you Ruta).


Ruta Sepetys'sBetween Shades of Gray [Hardcover]
Ruta Sepetys'sBetween Shades of Gray [Hardcover]
by Ruta Sepetys (Author)
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Powerfully written, heartbreaking and dramatic story based on true events., July 15, 2014
Although this most impressive novel was written using fictional characters (the plot created) the events on which it is based are most certainly true. In her Author's Note Ruta Sepetys explains that in 1939 the Soviet Union occupied the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Not long after, the Kremlin drew up lists of people considered anti-Soviet who Sepetys accurately states "would be murdered, sent to prison, or deported into slavery in Siberia. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, military servicemen, writers, business owners, musicians, artists, and even librarians were all considered anti-Soviet and were added to the growing list slated for wholesale genocide. The first deporations took place on June 14, 1941."

This is a particularly meaningful story to me because my own family had members who were forcibly deported to Siberia and suffered the deaths of people they dearly loved. Fortunately for the author's father (and my own parents) they (and their families) were able to escape to refugee camps set up in the American occupied zone of Germany. My maternal great aunt and her family with four daughters, however, were not so lucky. They did end up getting deported to Siberia, the two oldest girls literally worked to death dying of cold and starvation.

I love the incredibly empathic way in which this novel was written. It is written in the first person ("as told by") a 15-old-girl named Lina, who instead of heading for art school found herself forced into a train heading into the far reaches of the Soviet Union. Packed into railroad cars, starved for food, fresh air, even bathroom facilities these people, like the Jews in many parts of Europe, were stripped of their homes, their possessions, their very lives. It was painful to realize that, in many cases, the oppressors themselves were being fed and supplied by Americans who were too uninformed, too naive or simply had no wish to know what was going on. As they made their way east young children and the elderly started to die. Their bodies were literally tossed from train cars "swept clean" not even given the dignity of a burial. Before the journey begins Lina risks death by trying to find her father who has been placed into another train car headed for a prison where later she finds out he is shot. It is at this time she meets another teenager, a young man named Arvydas, for whom she develops a liking. Her group of people were first sent to one forced labor camp and then to another. In the second camp, located near the Arctic circle where the weather is especially harsh, Lina suffers the loss of her own mother. This part of the book is written particularly well because it evokes such deep emotion that the tears cannot help but fall.

Although Hitler's mass destruction of six million Jews (and at least three million non-Jewish individuals) is a most unquestionably horrible set of events, I have often wondered why more attenton has not been given to the TWENTY million that Stalin murdered in his own country. Again the author reminds me that "Upon returning in the mid-1950's, the Lithuanians found that Soviets had occupied their homes, were enjoying all of their belongings, and had even assumed their names. Everything was lost. The returning deportees were treated as criminals. They were forced to live in restricted areas, and were under constant surveillance by the KGB, formerly the NKVD. Speaking about their experience meant immediate imprisonment or deportation back to Siberia. As a result, the horrors they endured went dormant, a hideous secret shared by millions of people."

As a Lithuanian-American I am so DEEPLY grateful that Ruta Sepetys wrote this book. She explains how carefully she researched it by several visits to Lithuania where she interviewed survivors of this horrible ordeal. My only regret is that someone had not written this book YEARS earlier. These people's (MY people's) story needed to be told. The author honored their memory by doing just that.. Sirdingai aciu. (My sincerest thank you). Tegul Dievas tave palaimina Ruta (May God bless you Ruta).


God, Give Us Wings
God, Give Us Wings
by Felicia Prekeris Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.69
21 used & new from $9.52

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully well written, incredibly detailed, historically fascinating, an AMAZING book., June 23, 2014
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This review is from: God, Give Us Wings (Paperback)
This is the true story of Felicia Dalia Prekeris, just seven years old when she was forced to leave her native Lithuania in October of 1944 fleeing for her life and the lives of her mother, father and older sister. It is a vividly recalled story of deepfelt loss for a beloved homeland while fighting for survival of a family deeply devoted to one another.

I know this story well because it is also the story of my own family forced to leave Lithuania in July of that year or face forced deportation to the far reaches of the Soviet Unon. This, after all, was the Russian idea of the "final solution", exile the intellectuals to gulags or forced labor camps (really one Soviet version of Nazi concentration camps), replace democracy with Soviet totalitarianism, force feed Soviet ideology to a population that would be encouraged to forget their age-old Lithuanian language and culture to be replaced only with that of Russia. Felicia's father, after all, was a learned man, a teacher, a school inspector and highly respected amongst his peers and students. During the first Soviet occupation Soviet officials had tried to force him to spy on his own colleagues which he had (with great risk to his own safety) adamantly refused to do no matter what manipulative techniques the Soviet authorities used on him. Despite Felicia's mother's reluctance to leave a land they dearly loved the famly was finally forced to go using whatever means they could to flee first to Prussia and then to the British occupied zone of an occupied post WWII Germany. Their continued struggle to survive, their deep faith in God and devotion to each other keeps this family alive and together until one day, after an interim period in England, they are finally settled in the United States.

This is an outstanding book, one you should not even consider missing. There are many people in the United States (and elsewhere in what has historically been known as the Free World) who did not know what happened to the people of Eastern Europe when the Allied government chiefs, Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, met at Yalta and, as the author writes "decided the fate of nations, including our homeland, without a word trickling down to us." The luckier refugees would end up in Displaced Persons Camps where, although barely fed at the end of an awful war, had a chance of some kind of future. Tragically, however, many who had survived horrible odds at getting out were forced to later return to now Soviet occupied lands by poorly informed (or influenced by Communist sympathizers) Amercian forces whose only aim was to repatriate as soon as possible without regard for the long term safety and welfare of those entrusted to their care. This book helps tell the whole story, a story that has been hidden too long about the painful personal story of the people who were able to escape.


The Land of Honey
The Land of Honey
by Chinenye Obiajulu
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.10
26 used & new from $12.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Endearing story of a young couple in love struggling make a new life for themselves in Canada after leaving their native Nigeria, June 2, 2014
This review is from: The Land of Honey (Paperback)
This is a beautiful story--one that many an immigrant couple or family can relate to after deciding, for one reason or another, to leave their native country to make in another leaving behind everything that is secure and familiar, family, friends and the community one has grown up with for a better life in an unfamiliar land.

This is the story of Zimako and Anuli, a professional couple from Nigeria, who decide they can no longer live in a country where their physical security has become so much of an issue that they fear for their lives. Zimako, an engineer, and Anuli, a banking professional leave the country of their birth deciding to make a life for themselves in Edmonton, Canada. Their relationship, however strong, is soon to be tested when obtaining employment becomes a real challenge especially for Zimako. Determined not to downgrade himself and become one of many professionals who come to North America only to find themselves underemployed in positions that do not recognize their education and experience, let alone their earning potential, Zimako holds out while Anuli, more able to delay gratification while earning money at a lesser job goes out into the world world much to Zimako's disappointment. At one point both are even tempted by infedility. Just at the point where it doesn't look things can get any worse something happens and the couple's lives are forever changed.

I really liked this book. The author's style was very natural and relaxed. She is a true storyteller making the reader feel like they are "part of the family" as she describes both the husband's and the wive's family of origins, their values, their traditions, their hopes for this couple. It is a good read and I would very much recommend it.


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