Rescuers of Jews

Salenekas Juozas

Juozas Salenekas
Matilda Salenekienė

Engineer Juozas Salenekas lived with his wife Matilda and their small daughter in Šiauliai. The city was occupied by the Germans on June 26, 1941.
In the summer of 1944 Yosef Leibowitz, incarcerated in the ghetto, sought out his friend Juozas, with whom he had studied at Kaunas University, and asked him to save his niece Aviva, born in the Šiauliai ghetto in February 1942. After discussion with his wife, Juozas agreed and in June 1944 the child was brought to their home.
Before that, Matilda had taken their own daughter to her parents' home, so that the new girl could live at the Salenekas couple as if she were their daughter. The period of acclimatization was difficult for the two-year-old child, especially because she did not understand her rescuers'language. The Salenekas couple patiently taught her Lithuanian and accustomed her to seeing them as her parents. The child, who had black hair and eyes, did not look like her Lithuanian "parents". She, therefore, stayed at home until the liberation of the city.
When the front drew close to Šiauliai, the last Jews, still living in the ghetto, were deported to the Dachau and Stutthof camps. Moshe and Sulamit Leibowitz, little Aviva's parents, were among them. Moshe died in Stutthof while Sulamit survived and in September 1945 returned to Lithuania, hoping to find her only child.
Through the Association of Engineers she located the Salenekas family and found Aviva safe and healthy. Sulamit has stayed at the Salenekas family for six months, until Aviva became used to her mother again. This time she had to relearn her mother tongue Yiddish. In 1947 Aviva and her mother moved to Germany and after some time emigrated to Canada.

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