Rescuers of Jews

Girdvainis Kazys


Jonas Girdvainis, a farmer, lived with his wife Ona and their 15-year-old son Kazys in the village of Barstyčiai, Seda County, Lithuania. At the beginning of 1942, upon the request of Vladislovas Taškūnas, a priest from Alsėdžiai, the Girdvainis family provided shelter to 26-year-old Doba Feidelman and 16-year-old Mira Gafanovich, originally from Telšiai. By then Mira was the only survivor of her once extended family; Doba still had a sister. The priest Vladislovas Taškūnas kept them and two other Jewish girls under protection in his parish, until he found a better … [Show more]place for each of them. Doba’s younger sister Sara, who was fair-haired and spoke fluent Lithuanian, went to live with the Mikalauskas family as their maid. Doba and Mira, both looking recognizably Jewish, needed to find a place to hide. Jonas dug out a pit for them in his barn, and covered it with hay. Once a day the Girdvainises or their son would bring them food there; at night they would walk around for a bit in the courtyard, come into the house to wash themselves and their clothes, and talk to the family members.
The priest Taškūnas visited Doba and Mira every once in a while, always bringing Doba a letter from her younger sister. Once Sara even came to the Girdvainises with the priest – she missed her sister and longed to see her. From Taškūnas the women knew that they were not the only surviving Jews and that other locals were harbouring Jews, including Ona’s brother Juozas Straupis.
In April 1943 Jonas Girdvainis brought home from Telšiai a Jewish youth by the name of Yakov Gurvich. Gurvich had an authentic birth certificate with a Lithuanian name and was fluent in Lithuanian, and so he preferred not to hide but live openly, working for farmers. His self-confidence did not seem right in the eyes of Doba and Mira, they were afraid that because of Yakov the police might find them too. Yakov felt that his presence made them nervous and left in search of some other shelter. Doba and Mira remained with the Girdvainises until the liberation.
After the war Doba (married name Rafael), settled in Šiauliai and lived there until her last days. Mira (married name Kagan) moved to Kaunas and trained to become a dentist. In the 1990s she immigrated with her daughter to Israel and passed away in Jerusalem.

On December 15, 2010, Yad Vashem recognized Jonas and Ona Girdvainis as Righteous Among the Nations.
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