Rescuers of Jews

Eigelytė Stefanija

Stefanija EIGELYTĖ
Petras RAUDA

On the first day of the war, a woman and her threeyear- old son were escaping from Kaunas which was under bombardment. When a bomb hit directly the truck of the refugees, the woman was hit in the leg, and shrapnel entered the left eye of little Aleksandras. The wounded were taken to hospital. When somebody reported that they were Jews, they were brought to the ghetto. There the woman bribed a guard with a ring, her family treasure, and obtained some forged documents. Thus she managed to flee from the ghetto. The boy, however, needed special medical treatment and care. The nuns Juozapa Kibelaitė and Stefanija Eigelytė agreed to hide Aleksandras in the church foster home in Utena, and she herself found refuge in the countryside. The children’s foster home was visited by the parish priest, Father Petras Rauda. When the woman said openly that her son was Jewish, the sisters answered that the fact was of no importance. As a foster child, the boy was registered as Aleksandras Turovas. The doctor, who examined the boy at the request of the nuns and the priest, was fully aware of the consequences of helping Jews. His conclusion was that the boy would never see with his left eye.

Aleksandras Šindleris writes in his memoirs:

To this day I somehow remember it as if through a veil of mist... The falling bombs mix the earth with the sky, and thousands of needles seem to stab my body. Terrified, I eat soil and cry...
In the ghetto I remember no faces, only extreme hunger, darkness and cold, and everything around me resembles wet asphalt.
In the foster home everything is the opposite. I do not feel pain any more, it is warm, and there are some nice, kindhearted women. But nevertheless I want to eat...
The forest is bright and dark, it is day and night. In the forest I am sitting on the lap of a woman, and she is telling me something in Lithuanian, a language familiar to me, and I am not full of fear...
In 1950 my foster-father, the priest Petras Rauda, returned from Siberian exile. The trials had ruined his health. On his return he was taken to hospital. My mother took me to see him and despite his blindness the priest recognised me. “Aleksiukas, little boy, is that you?” he asked in Lithuanian, and in tears I embraced him...

Aleksandras' parents survived, and after the war they came to the foster home to find their son alive and much bigger. His father hugged a tree and burst into tears. And that was a man who had served all the war years at the front line and had been wounded twice...

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