Rescuers of Jews

Zelčiūtė-Vaičiūnas Stefanija

Juozas & Justina Rimša
Jurgis & Ona Rimša
Antanas & Elena Starkus
Valerija Karvelytė
Marija Zelčiūtė-Holecek
Stefanija Zelčiūtė-Vaičiūnienė

The rescue story of a young dentist, Olga Gurviciute, who graduated from the Kaunas Medical Institute, was full of danger, happy occurrences and meetings with kind and noble people, thanks to whom she survived. According to the book “Unarmed Fighters” by S.Binkiene, published in 1967 “when Kaunas Jews had been driven to the ghetto, Olga Gurviciute turned out to be among the victims of the First Action. When she was taken together with all the others to the place of murder,one of the Nazis came to her and said, “a girl with a plait, go home” - a happy accident, which saved her from death. Afterwards, she ran away from the ghetto and found herself in Minsk. She witnessed so much cruelty and innocent victims on her way, that life itself lost its value for her”. Not seeing any way out, Olga gave in to the Germans, but they did not kill her and sent her back to the Kaunas ghetto instead. A young German, a driver, who was sent to Kaunas on some mission, took Olga with him. He persuaded her not to return to the ghetto, but to find shelter at some friends. Olga followed his advice and upon arrival to Kaunas, she went to her friend, MarijaZelciute, who gave her shelter. Olga stayed at Marija’s place until searches started. One day both girls had been standing in fear beside the window in anticipation of the Nazis. But fortunately, on that day the Nazis went away after they finished searching the neighbouring house. It became obvious that it was too dangerous to stay at Marija’s place. Starting form that day, Olga had been repeatedly changing hiding places – she stayed with Marija’s sister, StefanijaVaiciuniene, then at her friend’s – ValerijaKarvelyte. For quite a long time she had been receiving help from Professor Starkus, his wife Elena and two children. In 1943 AntanasStarkus was arrested and taken to the Schtuthoff concentration camp, where he saved lives of many prisoners, while working as a camp doctor.

Eventually Olga found shelter in the house of a sculptor PetrasRimsa; but it was too dangerous to stay in his small apartment in Kaunas. In October 1942 Petras’ brother JuozasRimsa, took Olga to their house in Vilkaviskis region, Naudziai village. Two families lived in the house – JuozasRimsa and his wife Justina and Juozas’ brother JurgisRimsa,his wife Ona and son Aidas. In 1944 Ona gave birth to daughter Onute. Olga was accepted as an equal member of the family. She was introduced to all the workers of the farm as an orphan Stepute, who did not have a place to live and whom sculptor PetrasRimsa sent to his brothers’ place in a village. In the house of Rimsas Olga awaited her liberation. On August 8, 1944, she wrote in a letter to her rescuers, “My dearest, you have brought me, tortured in soul and body, without documents, when on every corner Gestapo murderers threatened to rape and kill. I remember how I asked you timidly once: “Do you know that it is deadly perilous? And you answered: “We’ll die together, but while we live, we’ll struggle for our lives – no way shall we give in to those butchers”. In 2012 Juozas and JustinaRimsa, Jurgis and OnaRimsa, Antanas and Elena Starkus, ValerijaKarvelyte, MarijaZelciute-Holecek were acknowledged as Righteous Among the Nations.
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