Rescuers of Jews

Minkevičienė Ekaterina (Kotryna)


Rescued Miriam Javnaitė writes in her reminiscences:

“In autumn 1941, a consignment of Jewish prisoners was working in Kuršėnai, near a sugar factory. They heaped up sugar beets. Work in the barns was slow, and most often they worked outside, in rain, even sleet, knee-deep in mud, dressed in all they had what we managed to bring from home (I lived in Šukėnai before the war) in a small bundle, and even this bundle would be searched a hundred times by the security people, in our presence or not. We would leave these scanty bundles – what could young girls take at the moment of “fire” – underwear, a pair of socks? – on the bunks where we slept. We would sleep in our clothes, it was a heavy sleep, much heavier than in a pre-war feather bed, except that every night we each in turn would cry, so very quietly, like little puppies yelping: crying of dampness, of overtired arms and legs, waist... Always hungry, always cold...
Later there was less work and some of us were driven away somewhere. Some said it was to the ghetto in Šiauliai, others – that they were to be killed. The gentiles were frightened by this, but we had seen a lot, and had stopped being surprised.
One evening, at the platform, one of young men who worked there said that I and one or two other girls should wait at the rear barn after dark. We did so that night, but we just waited several hours in vain, and later started looking for them ourselves, not knowing exactly who we were looking for. Then we fell into a pit full of sugar beet and a guard pulled us from it. We said we were late from work. He kicked at us with his boots and ordered to go to the barracks.
Two days later the same young man asked us where we had been waiting before the patrolman caught us. It turned out he had seen this, but could not find us because we were not waiting outside, but hiding in the barn so as not to be caught like in a mousetrap.
After one more night we were taken by boat across the Venta river and then driven on a cart to a farmstead. There were three of them, the rescuers – two young men and a young woman. We could not discern their faces in the dark, and their names, too, remained unknown. And only in 1989, at the Jewish Congress, did I find out that they were the brothers Minkevičiai – Sergejus and Jokūbas, and Sergejus' wife, Kotryna. She was the eldest among them.”

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