rescuers of jews

Rekašienė Stanislava

Stanislava REKAŠIENĖ

“The citizens of Lithuania were frightened, and in all possible ways discouraged from saving Jews. The owner of a house where a Jew was found could be shot without trial, together with the Jew. Nevertheless, there was no case that a peasant would not feed a condemned Jew and would not let him stay overnight, and as often as not would hide him at the risk of his own life.”
These are the words of one witness, defining precisely the spirit and the events of that terrible time.
The dark clouds of the war did not bypass the family of Stanislava and Vincas Rekašius, ordinary inhabitants of the little town of Pavandenė. The Rekašius were known locally as honest and generous people. Everyone who called on them was fed and given shelter. The father was strict and just, and the mother was kind and caring. None of their children were surprised when one cold January afternoon in 1943 a brown-eyed girl by the strange non-Lithuanian name of Sulamita suddenly appeared in their home. She soon became one of the family, and got used to the customs and daily life of the home, which was alien to her. The people round about guessed her origins, but all of them kept silent about it. Besides, the neighbours often saw Rekašius’ three children, Elena, Antanas and Nijolė, hurrying along the road to Telšiai with bags in their hands. The reason was that seven more Jewish girls had found refuge with their relatives. Germans lived downstairs in Eimontas’ home, while upstairs a small room was occupied by the girls. Nobody could even think about fresh air or a walk outside. The situation was simply too dangerous. It was only with the retreat of the German army that the anxiety and fear began to disappear. At last, the girls saw bright daylight and the faces of all their rescuers after several years of darkness.
Many years passed. The eight rescued girls and their rescuers went their separate ways. However, the painful memories of those days will never disappear.
Sulamita Kacaitė-Volk describes that troubled time: “It was a night, one of those historic nights in Lithuania when Lithuanians rescued Jews from German bullets and shared with us not only their bread but also their warmth and wonderful human feelings.”
One of their children, the well-known composer Antanas Rekašius, intimated to one of his friends his intention to write a composition on the theme of the ghetto. It is to be regretted that the composer’s tragic death prevented the realisation of this idea.

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