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Čižinauskas Jonas

* 1897-1964
* recognized in 1992

Petrašiūnai cemetery, Kaunas, Lithuania

Čižinauskas Jonas

54.888727 24.011813

About the rescuer and the rescue story

During the war, Jonas Čižinauskas, a labourer, lived in Kaunas with his wife Ona, 18-year-old daughter Birutė and teenage son Vytautas in an old wooden house on the outskirts of Aukštieji Šančiai. Jonas worked as a caretaker in the vegetable canning factory "Sodyba", where a team of Jews from the Kaunas ghetto would come to work. When the ghetto was being racked by brutal exterminations of children, Jonas was approached by Shneyer Matz, a prisoner of the ghetto who had worked in the Jewish brigade. Shneyer asked Jonas to rescue his niece, Nava Mitkovskaja. Despite the threat of death for helping the Jews, Jonas Čižinauskas was not afraid of the danger, he shared the news with his wife and his daughter Birutė, and they decided to hide the child together. In the evenings, when the crews were returning from work, the ghetto gates would be in an uproar, and people returning from work would be checked for food. One autumn evening, during such a commotion, a woman from the ghetto side handed a girl wrapped in a blanket to Birutė Čižinauskaitė through barbed wire. Birutė, strong as she was, clutched the unmovable bundle in her arms - the children of the ghetto had learned early to sense danger and, when necessary, did not utter a sound. Birutė Čižinauskaitė carried four-year-old Nava Mitkovskaja in her arms from Vilijampolė all the way from Kaunas to Šančiai. She walked over 10 kilometres. Birutė told her son Ruslanas that the scariest part was crossing the bridge. When the Čižinauskas took her in, little Nava was frightened at first, but after a few weeks she got used to her foster parents, who took care of her as if she were their own child, and the blonde, blue-eyed little girl felt freer, even no longer afraid to go out to play with the neighbours' children. It was explained to the people around the neighborhood that she was a relative from the village. The mother managed to visit Nava a few times, but the separation was very painful for the girl, and it was very dangerous, so the mother stopped visiting the little girl. Later on, the Čižinauskas offered to hide Mitkovskaia's eldest son, Nava's brother Shraga. Ten-year-old Shraga was also picked up from his mother in the city by Birutė and brought home by a circuitous route. Shraga was given a hiding place in a cordoned-off kitchen cavity, accessible only through a kitchen cupboard. Shraga spent almost all his time there. As the front approached and the Germans grew more and more irritated, the neighbours began to talk more and more about the little girl in the Čižinauskas' house. So one day, a carriage pulled up to the Čižinauskas' house, put Nava in it, and took the little girl back to the village to her parents - but it was just a staged spectacle. After dark, Nava was brought back again and has been hiding in a shelter with her brother Shraga ever since. At the end of the war, the Čižinauskas passed a note to the children's mother in the ghetto, through acquaintances, asking her to come and hide with them too, but at that time, Jews were no longer being taken to work, and ghetto guards had been strengthened. When the ghetto was liquidated, the woman was taken to Stutthof concentration camp and died there. The children's father was murdered in Vilijampole in August 1941. The children stayed with the Čižinauskas until 1945, when they were taken in by relatives. Later, Shraga Mitkovski settled in Moscow and Nava Mitkovski-Braverman lived in Israel and Canada. The brother and sister Mitkovskis' relationship with the rescuers has never been broken. In the summer of 2023, Birutė's son Ruslan said he was still in contact with Nava, who is now over 80 years old.

After the war, Jonas and Ona and their children stayed in their home in Šančiai. The family had 18 acres and lived on the vegetables they grew. They fed themselves and took them to the market to sell. Jonas died in 1964 and Ona lived to the age of 95 and died in 1996.

During the war, Birutė met Rashid, an Uzbek-born captain doctor, in Šančiai. Immediately after the war, the couple got married and moved to Uzbekistan. In 1946, Birutė and Rashid's daughter Ranchod was born in Uzbekistan. The family lived there for a couple of years, but at Birutė's request they returned to Šančiai, to her parents' home. In 1948, Birutė and Rashid had their second child, a son Ruslan. Rashid worked as a doctor. Birutė worked as a weaver in the "Drobė" factory.

Around 1960, Rashid moved to Uzbekistan and visited his family only in the summer. Birutė had to take care of her children, parents and home alone. She worked three shifts at the "Drobė" factory. When Rashid's health deteriorated, the family brought him back to Lithuania and cared for him until his death.

Birutė's children, now grown up, never left their mother's side - her daughter and her husband built an extension, and so they all lived in the neighbourhood. Birutė had two grandchildren.

Her son Ruslanas, speaking about his mother, emphasises that her life was not easy - it was hard to survive and all the work fell on her shoulders. When asked to describe his mother, Ruslanas is quick to reply that his mother Birutė was the best and most beautiful.

Rescued persons (Yad Vashem web page):

Shraga Mitkovsky
Nava Mitkovskaya Braverman

Information collected using:

The story told by Birutė's son Ruslanas

54.888727 24.011813

Jonas Čižinauskas

The Čižinauskas' house where Jews were hidden. Standing are Birutė's son Ruslanas and husband Rashid

Shraga Mitkovsky and Nava Mitkovskaya Braverman

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