Rescuers of Jews

Riaukaitė Alfonsa

Justina Riaukienė and Alfonsa Riaukaitė

Justina Riaukienė and her daughter Alfonsa lived in Kaunas in a small apartment on Vilnius Street. In the period of the German occupation, new tenants came into the building: Dominikas Kniukšta with his wife and their five children. Dominykas worked as a night guard in one of the city schools. In 1943, Jews from the ghetto, doing the forced labor, were brought to the school for repair works. Kniukšta became friendly with one of them, Yosef Gelman, who asked Kniukšta for help to rescue his five-year-old daughter. Dominykas Kniukšta agreed and one day in early 1944, Eva (later, Hava Zeidel) Gelman was brought to his home, sleeping inside a bag. The child stayed hidden with the Kniukšta family for about a month and a half until the neighbors found out. Then Dominykas asked Justina Riaukienė to take the girl in until suspicions would pass. One night Eva was brought to the new hiding place. She was hidden from strangers and cared for very lovingly by Justina and her daughter Alfonsa who had always dreamed of having a little sister. The girls spent many hours together. Alfonsa taught the little girl to read and write in Lithuanian and was amazed by her intelligence and quick mind. When the front drew near to Kaunas, in July 1944, Alfonsa was sent out of the city, while Justina remained with Eva in Kaunas during the bombardments. On August 1, 1944, Soviet troops entered the city. Eva continued to live with her rescuers until they learned about the kindergarten opened for Jewish children. Eva was admitted to the kindergarten, where her father found her when he returned from the Dachau concentration camp. He was grateful to Justina Riaukienė for rescuing his daughter. In the 1960s, Eva moved to Israel. Contact between her and her rescuers was lost and was renewed in 2000.

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