Rescued Jewish Children

Sara Garberaitė (Eleonora Volskaja)


I was born in Kaunas, on January 25, 1941.
My father, - Vulfas Garberis, was educated chemist, businessman, co-owner of the plant „Unionas-Standartas“ (after the Soviet nationalization he worked as a manager of the same plant). Mother - Liuba Garberienė, nee Bukmazaitė.
We lived in Kaunas, Palangos Street, 8, close to the chocolate factory. Many of our relatives lived in the same building.
I was only 6 months old when I became the Kaunas Ghetto inhabitant, together with my parents, my elder sister Rachel (I‘ve revealed later on – she was a talented pianist, we had two great pianos „Steinway“ at home) and many our relatives. It happened on July 15, 1941. During many years I tried to find out about the further events, how my parents perished.
All the sparse information about my life during the war (at first with my parents in Ghetto, after – at my rescuers), after the liberation of Kaunas (in the orphanage in Kaunas) and the story of my adoption I have learned from the letters and memoirs written by different people during the period of 30 years.
Thus, one has to keep in mind, that I was capable to start looking for traces of my relatives only in 1973 after my foster-parents‘ death. In these times it was dangerous even to mention the word „Ghetto“ because till 1989 all the war time prisoners were considered as „national traitors“. These people risked to lose their status in the society – to lose their job or their place in the list to receive apartment.
After publishing a message in Lithuanian newspapers I was lucky to find the daughter of Jeronimas Laskevicius who worked as a driver in my father‘s company before the war. In the fall of 1943 my father entrusted my life to him, - he had no other way to rescue me...
When the Germans announced about preparing the destruction action of children till 13, my father once took me – 2.5 years old baby, gave me sleep medications, wrapped me in rags and, going to work, passed the guards and get me out from the ghetto. Then he left me inside the sack in the agreed place in the basement of nearby building.
Jeronimas Laskevicius together with his daughter Elena-Irena took the sack with me, as it was agreed. Elena-Irena Laskeviciute told me this story. She is 10 years elder than me, so, she remembers well most of the events.
It was supposed that I would live at their family, Universiteto Street 9. But I couldn‘t be there for a longer time because there were policemen living at Laskevicius, and moreover Jeronim‘s brother was a policeman. They hid me in the loft till the other Lithuanian family, Josifas and Agripina Meškėnas, took me to themselves. They rented an appartment in the front building. I called them Grandma and Grandpa. I consider these wonderful people as my rescuers.
According to Grandma, I wept frequently calling my father. Soon, the owner of the apartment where the Meskenas family lived, asked them to leave: „Please, go from here, there is a Jewish child with you, somebody will inform and they will shoot us“.
Grandma and Grandpa were forced to leave Kaunas. My father was glad that the Meskenas family took me away, it was more secure. I didn‘t meet my father anymore.
It was more quite in Kupiskis. It was difficult for Meskenas to find the living place having a Jewish girl with them but they managed. For the new neighbors they introduced me as their grandchild, their perished son‘s daughter. (Before the war they lost their two sons). Grandma used to go to the village to earn, she get her payment by food. Me and Grandpa went to meet her. Grandma and Grandpa shared with me the last piece of bread, cured me when I was sick, pitied me and suffered after they learned from Laskevicius‘ letter that my parents and all the family perished. After they get this message, they said nothing to me: that day several friends visited me, we danced and had fun. Many years passed before I learned from Grandma‘s letter what kind of burden pressed their souls...
When I wept, Grandpa kissed me stabbing me with his mustash, it was painful. I complained to Grandma and Grandpa laughed, he loved me very much.
In 1944 my cousin, my father’s nephew Efraimas Zyvas managed to escape from ghetto when only several weeks were left till the liberation of Kaunas – 01-08-1944, therefore he survived. He found me with Laskevicius‘ help and transfered me to the Jewish ophanage in Kaunas. From there I was took by Michailas Aleksandrovičius, the famous Jewish singer, who before the war married my mother‘s sister Ela (she was killed the first war days).
He lived in the same building and was the cantor of Ohel Jakov synagoge. In 1945 М. Аleksandrovičius took me from Lithuania to Moscow, where in August 1947 advocat Alexander Volsky‘s family adopted me. (Advocat‘s wife Raisa was my mother‘s relative). They gave me another name: Sara Garberaitė became Eleonora Volskaja.
The Garber family disappeared. I’ve heard that my sister Rachel-Rasia was shot from a gun in front of my mother. After this mother got crazy.
My relatives perished during the Kaunas ghetto liquidation. According to my cousin Efraim, the only relative survivor, my and his families and all the rest our relatives have been burned alive in the underground bunker that they‘ve secretly arranged hoping to survive. The Red Army stood close to Kaunas more time than a month and during this period the ghetto was destroyed, scrapped and burned together with all the people left there.
Grandpa Meskenas died in 1948 because of gangrene – there were no doctors and no medicine to cure sepsis. Grandma Agripina was taken by her son Vladas, who left to Australia in 1947. Grandma living at her son found me in November 1967. In the early seventies I was invited to the district KGB department. There I received a “proposition” – with warning to lose my job and other similar actions,– to bring to minimum all the contacts with Agripina Meškėnas.
After the „Perestrojka“ started I began to plan the meeting, dreamed for so long. But in 1989 when I was preparing the documents for the trip to Australia, I received the telegram about Grandma Agripina‘s death.
Let there be a bright memory of them!

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