Rescuers of Jews

Kašinskienė Magdalena






Janina Feldberg testifies:

Our town Vilkaviškis in Lithuania was occupied and partially destroyed by the Nazi invaders on 22 June 1941, the first day of the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Next day following the occupation, all Jewish men were recruited for forced labour. On 6 July 1941 the Jews were made to fasten yellow six-pointed stars on their backs and fronts. The Nazis issued special laws regarding the Jews. The time of fear and persecutions began. On 28 July 1941, Germans aided by the Lithuanians gathered Jewish men and killed them in [original illegible] which was in the town. Thanks to an unbelievable miracle, a few men – and my husband Šmuelis among them – escaped the fate of the rest.
Early in August 1941 the German authorities evicted all elderly people, women and children from their abodes and moved them to “karantinas”.1t was there that these few men survived. It was like a ghetto, we lived there under inhuman conditions, just because there was nothing to live on. My husband left it and worked on farms. On 20 September 1941, with my old mother and two daughters, I left for a village. On 23 September 1941 “karantinas” was locked, guards were posted and nobody else was allowed to leave it. On the same day all Jews who worked in the villages were gathered and driven to “karantinas”. On the next day, 24 September 1941, everybody there was killed. We found out about the plans to exterminate “the ghetto” and thus did not wait until somebody carne to take us. We ran away to fields and by miracle escaped death with my mother and two small daughters, freezing and hungry, but when our whereabouts became known we were forced to leave the place and look for a new shelter in the nearest village. My mother could no longer endure life in such conditions, therefore she returned to the town where she joined my brother and his family. With some other Jews they managed to survive and stayed in the town.
One morning, when we were still rushing about and looking for shelter with my daughters, when Rut, who was the elder, was five, and little Ada two-and-a-half, we met in Pagrandaras village a 35-year old Lithuanian woman, whose name we did not know then. She was Kastulė Savickienė. When she saw us, she immediately understood who we were, stopped and asked where we were going. When we answered that we ourselves did not know, and that we were just looking for shelter for our daughters, she pitied us and took us, with greatest alertness, to her sister Magdė Kašinskienė who lived next to Kastulė. When they heard of our escape, they pitied us and settled us in the shed. They brought us food and from that day on started together with us to look for ways of how and where to hide us and save from the killers. Both sisters with their husbands and their brother Pijus Kilikevičius, who also lived in the neighbourhood, started planning and looking for ways and combinations as to how and where to hide us. It was a very difficult and serious problem, we could not stay together in one place, we needed three-four places; the girls also posed a problem.
Despite all difficulties and the fact that the material situation of our saviors was hard – since we were unable to help them in any way, because of their pity, deep feeling and immense wish to help us they did everything to save us and guarantee our existence. Besides, it was dangerous to their lives, since, according to the law, Christians rescuing the Jews were to be punished just like Jews. And, as I have already mentioned, there was no possibility to let us all stay in one place. Thus they decided to divide us among themselves. My younger daughter Ada and myself stayed for a time with our rescuer Kastulė Savickienė. Our daughter Rut went to Adele and Vincas Sarpaliai, while my husband – to Pijus Kilikevičius, Kastulė and Adele's brother.
Some time later, when the situation noticeably worsened, we were forced to leave the place with our younger daughter Ada because of the danger to our lives and those of our saviours.
And again, in the cold winter of December 1941, at 35 degrees below zero, we were rushing about looking for a shelter for our little Ada, who was already three years old. Least of all we were concerned about our lives and fates, and it was plain that we would commit suicide if we did not find a safe place, we would do anything not to fall into the killers' hands. But what about our little daughter? Ten days passed until we carne to Uršulė Stankevičienė in Obšiutai village. She was a widow, lived very poorly, and had nine children. Their family lived in one room and a kitchen. After our urgent plea and begging she took Ada. Out of pity and not asking for any reward, she accepted Ada in her family. We left the girl there in the middle of the night so that she did not wake up and hear anything. We left the house with our hearts calm and brimming with gratitude to this woman who saved our daughter from death.
After a while we found out that her neighbours denounced her for hiding Jews, evidently they had us in mind. The Gestapo arrived, searched the house and when they did not find anything, took her and the girl to headquarters, interrogated and threatened her, demanded her to tell the truth about the girl. Disregarding threats, the woman did not admit anything and was let free with our daughter Ada. Ada spent all years of occupation with her, up to the marching of the Red Army and liberation in August 1944. To our greatest misfortune, she caught jaundice and died in December 1944. She was buried in a Christian village cemetery before we arrived to take her from there.
After we left the girl with Stankevičienė, our situation improved and we returned to our previous place where in May somebody denounced the presence of Jews in the area we were hiding. Searches started and again the three of us, i.e. my husband, our elder daughter Rut and myself, were forced to leave our hide outs and go to fields under the open sky. But even in a situation like this we stayed in contact with our rescuers – Uršulė Stankevičienė and Pijus Kilikevičius. They would bring us food, and we would from time to time come to them at night, to wash and warm ourselves, to get some food. When our Rut was no longer able to endure such conditions, she was given shelter by Magdė Kašinskienė, the sister of our rescuer Kastulė.
From 15 May to 15 August 1942, we were hiding with my husband in rye fields, which were the property of our rescuers. We did not want to put them in danger and were scared for their lives. Even then we maintained the contact. They knew the place of our hiding and would bring food and water there. In autumn, after the harvest time, when we could not stay in bare fields, we came back to our old places. I stayed with Kastulė, and my husband – with Pijus.
Right to the retreat of the Germans, all three of us were hiding at Kastulė Savickienė. I would like to add that she was sick with tuberculosis and during my stay there I worked much, helped them with house-keeping, taking care of the children, etc. When the Germans retreated, her health deteriorated and she died. There was no end to our tears and mourning since it was she who was the first to extend a helping hand, and, thanks to her, more people joined this saving mission.
There were three children in the Savickai family.
The eldest, Danutė, was 12, Juozas – 8, and Renutė two and a half years old. They knew about us and were very friendly to us, even the little ones would warn us about threatening danger. They knew our hideouts, and they also knew that they had to warn us about corning neighbours or other strangers who were not supposed to know about us. During three years of hiding, there were some extremely difficult situations when danger was looming not only over us, but also over our saviours. Disregarding danger, they did not break the thread of support, they did their best to help us, out of human pity and love, without reward, just listening to the cry for help. And, as you can see, they attained their goal. We owe our survival to them; being one of the few of those from our town who succeeded in escaping, we managed, after 12 years, to return to Israel, our historic motherland.
What I have written here is just a short description of our life during the three years of the occupation. In the Yad Vashem museum in Tel Aviv you can find a more detailed and accurate story of our survival.

From Hands Bringing Life and Bread, Volume 1,
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. Vilnius, 1997

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