Rescuers of Jews

Beldauskaitė Vanda

Juozas INKRATAS
Teofilė KAZLAUSKAITĖ


“Every time I read about Lazdijai, I feel painfully nostalgic for my dear native town where I spent the best days of my life, my childhood,’ wrote Berta Kaufmanaitė-Lenskienė from Canada.
However, besides Lazdijai, there is one more fateful place for the Jewish girl Berta and her sister Guta. It is Šeštokai, where during the German occupation they were rescued from death by the parish priest Father Juozas Inkratas and the church warden Teofilė Kazlauskaitė, doubtless not without the tacit approval and support of the other inhabitants of Šeštokai.
When talking about Inkratas, the faces of the older inhabitants of Šeštokai light up. The priest was sent from Slavikai to Šeštokai, where he worked for over 20 years.
Local people remember that the priest lodged with two daughters, Vanda and Kazė, of the landlord Beldauskas. After the First World War they had granted about five hectares of land and some buildings for the establishment of a parish in Šeštokai. They were rich heiresses; however, these two single women did not know much about farming, and gradually everything went to ruin. Before the eyes of the people their formerly splendid clothes and hats became worn out, and in time only two shabbily dressed old ladies sat in the pews in front of the altar.At first, the terrified Berta and Guta, daughters of a Lazdijai tavern owner called Kaufmanienė, were brought to the old ladies. One was 19 and the other 20 years old. The girls had been hiding for a long time in the marshes at Lake Rimietis, until they were found by the Liutkauskas, who probably shared their secret with or asked for advice from Father Inkratas. Soon people close to the presbytery noticed that two new servants, Onutė (Guta) and Regina (Berta), had appeared in the hospice.
After the war, Berta Lenskienė and Guta Gotlibienė lived in Vilnius. Meanwhile, in Šeštokai, Father Inkratas was faced with the threat of exile to Siberia. Now he needed the hideouts under the presbytery floor and under the rafters of the church where Berta and Guta had hidden at the most dangerous moments several years before.
“It seemed that we would not survive,” the wife of the church organist, A. Vilčinskienė, recalled. “The priest went into hiding, and my husband looked after the farm. He was interrogated and beaten up more than once. At last we decided to go to the Jewish girls for help. Soon Berta and Guta came to Šeštokai, met the priest and went to Lazdijai. Since then we had no more trouble. And the parish priest, Father Inkratas, was transferred to Lazdijai.”
“A heart can be cured by a heart,” wrote the cardiologist Professor Chackelis Kibarskis in the visitors’ book, having come to the town on the occasion of its centenary in the summer of 1998; he was one of the few surviving Šeštokai Jews.
The parish priest of Šeštokai, Kęstutis Bekasovas, and Professor Juozas Vytautas Uzdila took the initiative to honour properly the activities of Father Juozas Inkratas and the church warden Teofilė Kazlauskaitė. People were put to the most difficult test of humaneness. Some passed it, while others did not. And there is no nation in the world consisting only of heroes or only of villains. There are only people who choose between...
“I am proud that in my Šeštokai there was not a single Jew-killer; on the contrary, two lives were saved,” said Professor Uzdila.

From Hands Bringing Life and Bread, Volume 3,
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. Vilnius, 2005
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