Rescuers of Jews

Misiūnaitė Agota


On September 9th 1940 in the family of a writer, journalist Meyer Elinas and a musical pedagogue Busia Kormanaite-Eliniene their daughter Estera was born. When the army of the Nazi Germany invaded Lithuania, the Elinai family tried to escape to Russia; yet, an attempt was unsuccessful and the whole family found themselves behind barbed wire fence in Kaunas ghetto on August 15th 1941. Every person who was in his senses understood what destiny awaited them. On December 31st 1941 in Kaunas ghetto an anti-fascist organization was founded; the leader and legendary hero of it was Meyer Elinas’ brother Chaim. One of the aims of the organization was to establish contacts with those outside the ghetto and find people who would help with rescueing Jewish children; Busia Eliniene also tried to help look for such people. It was extremely hard to find a constant hiding place. The first attempt to save Estera was unsuccessful; after the girl had spent some time with a couple of Lithuanian families, she had to be returned to the ghetto. In October 1943 Busia Eliniene finally gathered the courage to knock on the door of famous Lithuanian intellectuals Ciurlioniai-Zubovai and was heard. Danute Ciurlionyte-Zuboviene even apologised since she could only spare an extremely modest room. Many Jewish people in Kaunas are indebted to this family for their lives they saved. Vladimiras Zubovas himself would ride on his bicycle around towns and villages in Kaunas region looking for places to hide fugitives; he had established contacts with the clergy as well.
In 1943 Teofilis Matulionis was elected bishop of Kaisiadorys. He had a crucial impact on Estara’s further life; on his command Estera was hidden in a Benedictine monastery in Kaunas. Sister Angele (Agota Misiunaite) was responsible for the girl’s wellbeing. The women grew very fond of the girl whom she would carry around telling her fairy tales. The future pianist Estera Elinaite, little Esia back then, was charming everyone with her play already there in the monastery even though she could barely reach the keys. When unexpected guests from the German offices turned up in the monastery about to search the premises, the head of the monastery sister Rozalija Rimsaite hurriedly transferred Estera to Ciobiskis orphanage near Kaisiadorys; once nuns had even hidden the girl in the belfry of Kaisiadorys church. As soon as the Germans left the country, Estera’s mother Busia Eliniene arrived at Kaisiadorys to meet the bishop who told her that her child was safe and sound in Ciobiskis orphanage. Soon the mother head that unforgettable question from her daughter: “Will you be my mother?”To save one little girl – Estera Elinaite – effort of many kindhearted people was needed.
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