Rescuers of Jews

Tallat-Kelpšienė Agota


In December 1941 the Tallat-Kelpšas hid in their home Dora Kaganaitė, who before the war had lived in Laukuva. Her classmates Stasys Šereika and Julija Uznytė had helped her escape from the ghetto. Soon afterwards, the remaining Jews of the Telšiai Ghetto were all killed.
At the beginning, Dora hid with Stasys’ parents, Zuzana and Antanas Šereika, and just before Christmas she moved to the Tallat-Kelpšas’ home. When it became dangerous to remain in the same place, she was taken for a time to the Tallat-Kelpšas’ relatives Liudvelė and Zenonas Jaruckas, Algirdas Ukrinas in the village of Vaitkaičiai, to the chemist Kajetanas Stropus, to V. Vaitkus, P. Rocevičius, V. Stirbinskis, R. Šveikauskas and M. Gruodis in the Laukuva district, and to Leonora Kučinskienė in the village of Žeberai. Sometimes Dora also stayed with the parents of the poet Vytautas Mačernis in the village of Šarnelė, and the teachers Alfonsas Gritė and Jonas Gedminas.
After the war Dora married Jurgis Tallat-Kelpša, and all her life worked as a teacher in Telšiai.
This publication deals mainly with the rescuers; but here is an attempt to show what a wonderful person was rescued by the people of Žemaitija. After the death of Dora Tallat-Kelpšienė, a former pupil of hers wrote:
“Life is a river, wide and deep...
Death takes away the personality, whose works and fond memory, nevertheless, remain.
I believe that those who depart this life do not die as long as there is at last one human being in this world who remembers them. And you will be remembered by very, very many.
In 1951 the children of a little town and its environs were curious to see the Jewish mathematics teacher. On 1 September you came to us, the twelve-year-old, in a bright striped suit with a black ribbon in your shiny dark hair. You were young and full of energy. You trained us for activity and life and were sure that all of us would become honest citizens. You loved and missed all your students, and compared the classes of every year, remembering us, your first class, like the firstborn, as your dearest.
You called our spouses your “daughters-in-law” and your “sons-in-law”, and our children your “grandchildren”.
In your life you were guided by the Indian proverb “Before judging another, walk two moons in his moccasins.” You judged neither us nor others, you only encouraged and advised.
You simply loved people and you knew the inhabitants of the town and of the adjacent villages. On learning about somebody’s illness, you visited the sick person to see if you could be of any help to them, and you attended the funerals of your acquaintances. When asked who taught you to take care of others, you usually answered: “I must love people, because they gave me my second life, and I don’t know how to pay my debt.” Dear teacher, you have repaid your debt in full by your goodwill and benevolence.
“Man’s soul is the most wonderful creation in the world,” said Dante. These seven-hundred-year-old words are embodied in you.”
Many harrowing and shocking events in the life of the teacher Dora Tallat-Kelpšienė could be attested to by her former schoolmate Stasys Šereika, currently a doctor living in Germany. During the occupation he took her out of the Telšiai Ghetto. Fate separated these two people for three decades, and again it was kind to them by enabling their communication in the last years of their lives. Hearts rich in kindness and benevolence always meet...

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