Rescuers of Jews

Buožis Vincentas

Petronėlė BUOŽIENĖ Vincentas BUOŽIS Ona BUOŽYTĖ Ona GELŽINIENĖ Jonas GELŽINIS Jonas GELŽINIS They hid and rescued Ela Geimanaitė-Šapyrienė in the village of Žibikai, and later in Račiai. Before the war, Ela Geimanaitė’s parents and their six children lived in Nevarėnai. At the start of the war all of them, almost half-naked, were driven to the Viešvėnai concentration camp. There the father and the boys were killed, while the mother, Ela, and her sister were taken to the Geruliai camp. The girls were sent to the countryside to work on farms. They earned some food which they gave to their mother. One Sunday they asked the farmer to let them visit their mother. They were given cheese and some bread, and they were happy to get a chance to see their mother. On their way, they met some Jewish women being taken to work. They shouted to the girls: “Don’t go!”, but they did not pay any attention to the warning. In the camp they saw women being lined up. When they asked about their mother, nobody said anything. A white-band told them to join the column, which soon started moving. After about a kilometre they heard shooting and understood what was happening. Elderly and sick Jewish women were being exterminated. Those who remained alive were sent to work. One day a Lithuanian called Milašius came to the gate of the ghetto to pick up workers. He had a farm. Ela was young and beautiful, she had long braids, perhaps that was the reason why Milašius chose her. Before Christmas he took his wife, his two daughters and Ela from Gadunavas to his farm. The hired Jewish girl Eta came to meet them and while unharnessing the horses asked her: “Sister, do you know that a pit has already been dug for us in Telšiai?” “How do you know?” asked Ela, terrified. “I heard the master saying that all the Jewish women must be taken to Telšiai. The landlady asked him what would happen to them. “I don’t know. Perhaps they will be used in soap production,” was the answer.” Eta disappeared from Milašius’ farm the following night, which was raw and hideous. The next night Ela escaped as well, but having nowhere to go she returned to the ghetto. Before the actual liquidation of the ghetto, she escaped again, this time with her sister Dora. They found shelter with Uršulė and Konstantinas Žutautas’ family in the village of Dadotkai. However, it was not safe there, and they had to escape to Stanislava and Raimondas Buknys in the village of Užpelkiai. When the situation became dangerous there, Buknienė applied to her relative Petronėlė Buožienė, and Ela found refuge in Jonas Buožis’ family in the village of Leteniai. Ela lived freely as a distant relative of Buožienė’s family. She was fair-haired and spoke good Lithuanian. She writes: “I cannot remember Petronėlė Buožienė without tears in my eyes. She was a woman with a big heart. She was always giving me something better to eat, saying “You don’t have a mother to cherish you”. The Buožis’ neighbours were put in prison for making moonshine. Konstantinas Žutautas, in whose home Ela and her sister had hidden, also served time in the same prison. Since he knew where Ela Geimanaitė was hiding, he started saying that people were imprisoned for making moonshine, while the Buožis, hiding a Jewish woman, walked free. To keep out of danger, Petronėlė Buožienė took Ela to her sister Ona Gelžinienė in the village of Žibikai. Ela says that the Gelžinis were honest and nice people and she felt at home there. She helped the family with household chores, and work on the farm was not difficult for a healthy young girl. Thus she happily awaited the end of the war. Ela writes the following about the Gelžinis: “If there is a God and Heaven, they should be sitting next to God.” When Ela was leaving for Israel, her dear benefactors were no longer alive. Having no other way of expressing her thanks to them, she had Mass celebrated for them.

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