Rescuers of Jews

Bieliukas Kazimieras

Kazimieras BIELIUKAS Sabina BIELIUKIENĖ-KAROSIENĖ Sabina Bieliukienė recalls: “In about May 1944, when I came home from work, my husband told me quietly that at night a Jew would be brought to our flat and that he would stay with us for some time. At the time he was being kept in the woodshed in our yard. Of course I looked at my husband with eyes full of fear. What could I say? Everybody was very well aware of the consequences of hiding Jews. Nevertheless, people all over Lithuania, in towns and in the countryside, hid and took care in various ways of the wretched people. We had no children, and our parents did not live with us. Only we were at risk. Without a word, I nodded in agreement... That night the Vilnius University teacher Jokūbas Movšovičius, a botanist, came to our flat. I gave up my bed to him in the bedroom and moved to my little study and slept on the sofa. Thus Movšovičius was accommodated in our bedroom, the most spacious and the room in the flat furthest from the corridor. However, there was no way of getting out of the flat: there was only one door, and there was no hiding place. In the daytime the poor man was locked in alone in the flat. Before going to work, I would leave him something to eat. Thus, disturbed by nobody, he could look after himself, wash, read, etc. Only he knew how he spent his time. During the German occupation the shortage of food was a great problem. People used to exchange clothes, household objects and items of furniture for food. My husband and I lived on very meagre rations. Professor Jokūbas Movšovičius. Photograph by I. Strzemieszna, Ùódê, 1968 We usually ate in canteens, that way spending the greater part of the month’s rations. We ate beetroot or cabbage soup made with horsemeat. The rest of the ration, bread and some sugar, we took home. But how could we support a guest? Nonetheless... A day before Movšovičius’ arrival we had a guest from Biržai, my brother-in-law, Kazys Atkočiūnas, who brought us some food, bread, eggs, jam and a joint of mutton. It is strange how I remember this detail up to now: what I treated Movšovičius to on the first day of his stay in our home. He must have been astonished: “How well they eat!” Unfortunately, that was only a coincidence. Homemade beetroot soup with mutton was a delicacy for us too, subsisting on our ration cards. Of course, the mutton brought by my brother-in-law was useful to all of us. I made the beetroot soup with mutton and potatoes. The potatoes were sprouting, but we had enough. Our guest had his meals in his room, and my husband took them to him. When the plates were brought back into the kitchen I saw that they were clean, absolutely clean: they had been licked. That made me cry. I was profoundly shocked by the tragedy of this hounded, distressed person, living in constant fear of the future. And he was not the only one... During the whole period of Movšovičius’ stay in our flat I did not see him once. I prepared the meals, and the rest was done by my husband. Sometimes they talked for a long time. With the front line approaching Vilnius, Movšovičius was taken away from our home. Where to, I do not know. At that time it was better not to know many things. That the professors of the faculty were concerned about something and took care of somebody I understood when once professors Antanas Minkevičius and Steponas Jankauskas came to our flat and, not finding my husband, asked me to give him the money for a “known matter”. Later I learned from my husband that the money was for clothes to be bought for our ward. After the war Movšovičius was appointed director of the Botanic Garden. Once he came to us to thank us for sheltering him. He brought some berries and recalled: “That’s in return for your jam.” Then he told me that he had felt very well in our flat, which seemed safe to him. He felt safest when we came home and he heard people in the flat, he felt very safe then. Actually all three of us were not safe...”

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