Rescuers of Jews

Gedmantaitė-Ramūnienė Gražina


Marija Zelikonaitė (later Gurvičienė) and Michalina Gedmantienė got to know each other in Kaunas in 1922 when they attended the piano class. Since then they had been cultivating their friendship. However, neither of them would have thought that Michalina would ever save Marija’s life.
Marija Gurvičienė lived with her ten-year-old daughter Libiana, and in the first days of the occupation the Hitlerites started persecuting her along with other Jews.
The first months of the war were full of danger and distress. The authorities announced that all Jews would have to leave their place of residence and move to the specially assigned ghetto in Vilijampolė. Not all people understood what that meant, and nobody thought that all those of Jewish nationality would be exterminated. When Gedmantienė learned about the planned resettlement of the Jews, she contacted Marija and her daughter and took them to her home. The three women managed to leave Marija’s home unnoticed; in particular they tried to avoid the janitor and his wife who threatened Marija for not wearing the yellow star.
Life at Gedmantienė’s place was good; however, fearing for the safety of her hostess and her children, she left her belongings and went to the ghetto. She stayed there for two months; having survived two actions she understood that they were all condemned to death. She managed to get word to Michalina that she wanted to return. Michalina agreed, and urged Marija to come back without delay.
Thus Marija and her daughter again settled at Michalina’s home. They had to stay inside all the time so as not to be seen by any stranger. That was unbearable for little Libiana, who wanted to go out and play with other children.
Michalina Gedmantienė’s ultimate sacrifice and unselfish determination to help the persecuted people were particularly striking. When Fania Kočelnikova escaped from the ghetto, Michalina took her in without a moment’s hesitation and shared everything she had with her. She had only one ration card for herself and two for her children, and that had to suffice for three adults and three children.
Despite her own miserable life, she had enough courage and kindheartedness to provide unstinting support to those who desperately needed it.

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