My husband, Andrius, says that evil will rule until good men or women choose to act. I believe him. This testimony was written to create an absolute record, to speak in a world where our voices have been extinguished. These writing may shock or horrify you, but that is not my intention. It is my greatest hope that the pages in this jar stir your deepest well of human compassion. I hope they prompt you to do something, to tell somone. Only then can we ensure that this kind of evil is never allowed to repeat itself.
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Tadas was sent to the principal today, " announced Jonas at dinner. He wedged a huge piece of sausage into his small mouth. "Why?" I asked. "Because he talked about hell, " sputtered Jonas, juice from the plump sausage dribbling down his chin. "Jonas, don't speak with your mouth full. Take smaller pieces, " scolded Mother. "Sorry, " said Jonas with his moth stuffed. "It's good." He finished chewing. I took a bite of sausage. It was warm and the skin was deliciously salty. "Tadas told one of the girls that hell is the worst place ever and there's no escape for all eternity." "Now why would Tadas be talking of hell?" asked Papa, reaching for the vegetables. "Because his father told him that if Stalin comes to Lithuania, we'll all end up there.
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I remembered Papa talking about Stalin confiscating peasants' land, tools, and animals. He told them what crops they would produce and how much they would be paid. I thought it was ridiculous. How could Stalin simply take something that didn't belong to him, something that a farmer and his family had worked their whole lives for? "That's communism, Lina, " Papa had said.
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People I didn't know formed a circle around me, sheltering me from view. They escorted me safely back to our jurta, undetected. They didn't ask for anything. They were happy to help someone, to succeed at something, even if they weren't to benefit. We'd been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean. I realized that if we boosted one another, maybe we'd get a little closer.
Jo, they have a baby grand piano, but no one in the family plays. They have shelves of books they've never read, and the tension between the couples was so thick it nearly choked us." "Let me tell you something 'bout those rich Uptown folk, " said Cokie. "They got everything that money can buy, their bank accounts are fat, but they ain't happy. They ain't ever gone be happy. You know why? They soul broke. And money can't fix that, no sir. My friend Bix was poor. Lord, he had to blow that trumpet ten hours a day just to put a little taste in the pot. Died poor, too. You saw him, Jo, with that plate on his chest. But that man wasn't soul broke.
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Some wars are about bombing. For the people of the Baltics, this war was about believing. In 1991, after 50 years of brutal occupation, the three Baltic countries regained their independence, peacefully and with dignity. They chose hope over hate and showed the world that even through the darkest night, there is light. Please research it. Tell someone. These three tiny nations have taught us that love is the most powerful army. Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy - love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit.
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I left the jutra to chop wood. I began my walk through the snow, five kilometers to the tree line. That's when I saw it. A tiny silver of gold appeared between shades of gray on the horizon. I stared at the amber band of sunlight, smiling. The sun had returned. I closed my eyes. I felt Andrius moving close. "I'll see you," he said. "Yes, I will see you," I whispered "I will." I reached into my pocket and squeezed the stone.
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My breathing slowed. I shaded her thick chestnut hair resting in a smooth curve against her face, a large bruise blazing across her cheek. I paused, looking over my shoulder to make certain I was alone. I drew her eye makeup, smudged by tears. In her watery eyes I drew the reflection of the commander, standing in front of her, his fist clenched. I continued to sketch, exhaled, and shook out my hands.
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Andrius turned. His eyes found mine. I'll see you he said. My face didn't wrinkle. I didn't utter a sound. But for the first time in months I cried. Tears popped from their dry sockets and sailed down my cheeks in one quick stream. I looked away. The NKVD called the bald man's name. Look at me wispered 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.
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One day when I was fourteen, I told Charlie that I hated Mother. "Don't hate her, Jo," he told me. "Feel sorry for her. She's not near as smart as you. She wasn't born with your compass, so she wanders around, bumping into all sorts of walls. That's sad." I understood what he meant, and it made me see Mother differently. But wasn't there some sort of rule that said parents had to be smarter than their kids? It didn't seem fair.
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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 there.
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