Lithuanians in the News
16th July 2017
Lithuanian Heritage Rūta Šepetys Wins Britain’s Most Prestigious Literary Prize
Rūta Šepetys. Photo courtesy Wikipedia
Lithuanian American writer Rūta Šepetys was last month on June 19 awarded the Carnegie medal, Britain’s oldest and most prestigious prize for literature. The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book in English for children and young adults. Many noted English writers have been recipients of this prize in the past.
Rūta Šepetys won her award for her latest book, “Salt to the Sea”, published last year. Its setting is the tragic events in East Prussia in 1945 near the end of World War II, when the German cruise ship “Wilhem Gustloff” was torpedoed by a Russian submarine in the Baltic Sea. The ship was crammed with more than 10,000 people, mostly civilian refugees. When the ship sank, more than 9,000 people died. About 5,000 of them were children. Though regrettably little known generally, it still ranks as the greatest single maritime disaster to date. Tragically, it is but one of the many shocking atrocities in East Prussia at that time, about which most people know nothing. Šepetys’ “Salt to the Sea” brings to the world’s attention this little-known piece of wartime history, but which most certainly deserves to be much more widely known.
The story in the “Salt to the Sea” also has a personal relevance for the author. She was born in America, the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. In fact her father’s cousin was meant to sail on the “Wilhem Gustloff”, but luckily was prevented from boarding the ship.
The author is already well known for an earlier book, “Between Shades of Gray”, which has now been translated into thirty languages, has been published in over fifty countries and a film based on the book is currently being produced.

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