Rescuers of Jews

Austys Leonas


A former resident of Telsiai Jakov Gurvicius changed numerous hiding places during the war; he returned to Vygantiskiai village (located around kilometres from Telsiai) several times since most of the peasants living there used to help the Jews.
From Jakov Gurvicius’ testimony:
I arrived at Ausciai home in the middle of June 1943, and, although there were many children in the family, they willingly took me in. I was a strong adolescent and used to give Leonas and Petronele a hand in their farm work, I helped Leonas to prepare firewood for winter; together we cut down the entire birch grove which he wanted to turn into arable land.
Leonas Austys was a courageous man; he didn’t deny supporting the Jews. On his name-day he invited many neighbours, all of whom knew I was Jewish, and seated me at the table next to himself, in the most honourable place, and solemnly said to his guests: “We have a Jewish boy among us so let us honour him.”
Ausciai farm was beside the main road, and strange passers-by would often come; therefore I realised it was unsafe for me to stay with them long. Leonas Austys suggested I could hide at his sister’s Stanislava’s and her husband’s Juozapas’ home. Stanislava and Juozapas Byrai lived in the same Vygantiskiai village only more remotely.

Jakov Gurvicius remained with Byrai for a while until the Gestapo started searches in the neighbourhood.
Juozapas and Stanislava Byros are declared Righteous among the Nations; they, as well as their family members, are also awarded Life Saving Crosses. At Jakov Gurvicius’ request another peasant family from the same village Leonas and Petronele Aisciai, who morally supported and took care of the teenage Jewish boy, were also recommended for the latter award.
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