* recognized in 1991
Petrašiūnai cemetery, Kaunas, Lithuania
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Dvoira Yellin and her daughter Esther hid with the family of the shoemaker Apuokas, later found refuge in the homes of other kind people. It was not safe to stay any longer in one particular place. For instance, they had found shelter with a quiet man Pranevičius in a remote street, but the neighbours objected to a Jew being hidden nearby. That was when Dvoira made up her mind to address people whom she knew only from their outstanding names and work.
Sincerity and warmth surrounded everyone who found shelter in the home of the Čiurlioniai-Zubovai. Dvoira was not even aware that there were more refugees in the house. She rejoiced when she saw the tiny storeroom in the cellar and found it hard to understand why Danutė Zubovienė was shyly apologizing for not being able to offer her a cosier place. It was because the more spacious room sheltered the engineer Anatolijus Rozenbliumas with his wife Raja, son Mika, and Raja's parents, the Kenigsbergai, all of whom had escaped from the ghetto, and later, Leonas Gurevičius, a doctor epidemiologist from Kaunas.
Cycling round rural areas, Vladimiras Zubovas searched constantly for a safer place for ever-new ghetto escapees. He would maintain contact with his friend Petras Baublys, a children's doctor and the head of the Lopšelis orphanage.
An even safer place was found for little Esthera in the orphanage of the Benedictine church in Čiobiskis, where another five Jewish children with forged papers lived until the end of the war.
Here, where Čiurlionis' paintings looked at you from the walls, new people would come, unburden their hearts, ask for advice. The hosts tried not only to sympathize with them and comfort them, but also to help them otherwise in the hard hour. An atmosphere of exceptional spirituality dominated here. The writer Sofija Čiurlionienė and her daughter Danutė Zubovienė, the author of numerous books for children, were involved at the time with their literary work. The architect Vladimiras Zubovas continued his research into the history of architecture. Like Balys Sruoga, a writer who was taken hostage by the Nazis and imprisoned in the Stutthof concentration camp, Vladimiras Zubovas (the designer of Balys Sruoga's house) also considered himself a representative of Lithuanian intellectuals who assumed responsibility for the nation's dignity. By their lives and noble deeds this family manifested the ideals of beauty and goodness declared in their own works.
From Hands Bringing Life and Bread, Volume 2,
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. Vilnius, 1999
Danutė Čiurlionytė – Zubovienė:
In the fall of 1944, when the Germans began to retreat, the Jews became alarmed. The most important thing for them was to save their descendants - children. Anyone with any sense of humanity was shocked by the brutality of the Germans. Jewish children were torn from their parents' hands and crammed into buses and taken to unknown places... My mother did not find a place for herself, especially since there was no way to act, how to protest... Her active nature suffered from restraint...
While such a mood was raging, one beautiful sunny morning a short blonde woman called at the door - she asked if the professor was at home. I brought her to Mom and left her in mom’s office. An hour later, I was also called. My mother did not dare to decide without me. That young woman was Jewish. Her daughter Esther was hiding in the ghetto with her grandparents. There was a rumor that all Jewish children will be exterminated. The unhappy mother had already been in Alytus and found a family that was willing to take Esia in. A person was supose to come with a horse and take her, so now only temporary shelter was needed. Mother and I, of course, agreed... A few days passed and here, late in the evening, Yellin appeared at our place with a little girl in her arms. We welcomed them heartily, sat at the table, served tea. The girl was sleepy - they had gaven her sleeping pills... The news was received in the ghetto that there will be a hunt for children next morning... We accommodated them in basement. In the morning, while the girl was still sleeping, the mother wnt out to meet that man from Alytus. My mother and I took turns downstairs. Black-eyed girl - she also had a metric Elenytė Juodakytė (Juodakytė means black-eyed in Lithuanian). Mother had taught us that if the girl starts shouting and crying, we should say "autobus fert" (the bus is moving) and she would understand that she needs to hide, huddle up and be quiet...
The man from Alytus did not come - apparently, he had changed his mind. The poor mother was wandering, looking for another place. Meanwhile, my mother was thinking... And she had a great idea. She went to one of the Catholic characters. Magdalena Galdikienė - pedagogue, public figure. She collaborated in the press of students' futures. From 1919 to 1940, she was the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Catholic Women's Society, participated in cultural and aid organizations. Of course, it was an influential lady with connections with the nuns... Soon we received the news that we could bring Esia to the Benedictine monastery. Late in the evening, we put Esia in Kastytis's stroller and Vladis and I carried her, while Yellin was a little behind. We knocked at the gate with the agreed sign. We let the mother and daughter in and returned with a relieved heart.
I was caring about my Mom - what did she have to go through? After all, we already knew that people we know was arrested for rescuing Jews. I was trembling all the time because of my mother's heart, constant anxiety, fear... Strange ways of fate - after all, one of the guardians of little Esia was my classmate. After graduating from high school, she entered a monastery. It was a quiet, pious girl with a very good heart - Rozalija Rimšaitė.
Yellin started working for a farmer in the village of Rokai. Later we learned that she was the last to see V. Krėva, retreating to the west. She tried all kinds of ways to persuade him to stay, but he wouldn't give in - looking terrible, as if he was going to a real death. Yellin was an unusually energetic woman; she also pulled her husband out of the ghetto, who was hiding somewhere with a good-hearted woman in the village with a dozen Jews.
As the front was getting closer, while we were on vacation in Panemune with our children, one evening my friend, the nun Rimšaitė, brought Esia to my mother. The nuns had learned that the search was coming... Esia saw Gurevičienė and asked: "maybe you are my mother?" When Gurevičienė went to lie down, she crossed herself and said a prayer... After the danger was over, the nuns came to take her back. Mother hid from us that Esia was with her, as we would have dropped everything and driven back. I wouldn’t have let Mom go through such a danger alone.
The Benedictine monastery was always in danger. The nuns moved Esia to their children's shelter in Čiobiškis, not far from Kaišiadorys. There were also more Jewish children. When the Germans found out about it, they searched and took at least 5 Jewish children. At that time, the teachers managed to hide Esia. After that, she was taken to the Kaišiadorys diocese, where Bishop Teofilius Matulionis, who had already been transferred from Kaunas, was. The girl was sheltered in the diocese, where she felt very well, she was liked by everyone, especially because of her musicality - she kept going around the organ in the church, singing with everyone. After the intercession of the bishop, the arrested Jews were not destroyed. The mood was already different - the Germans were retreating having already lost the war.
Esia was again returned to Čiobiškis. Meanwhile, after the Germans withdrew from Kaunas, the Yellins returned from hiding. Dwoira went to Kaišiadorys, where she learnt about her daughter. Bishop Matulionis and his host, the Benedictine sister Angelė, who took care of Esia in Kaunas, welcomed her very warmly. The bishop said that the girl should be taught music. After finding out that Mrs. Yellin is a music teacher herself, he said: "It's very good, it's very good!" Mrs Yellin spent the night there and set off on foot to Čiobiškis early in the morning... There was no end to Esia's joy.
Esther studied at a music school at the age of ten, where her mother also taught music. Esia later graduated from the conservatory in Moscow. She married Orlov, a Jew from Moscow, who talked the Yellins into moving to Israel in 1973. Back in Lithuania, we enjoyed Esther’s concerts many times. She is a graduate of the Chopin Competition in Warsaw. Now Esther Yellin has her own music school in Zurich - conservatory level.
We communicate with that family all the time. Our grandson Rokas Zubovas and his wife Sonata even visited Esther when he participated in a competition in Switzerland. Her advice gave them a lot.
Around the same time that Mama was concerned about Esia's fate, engineer Anatolijus Rosenblum came to Valdis, his colleague from war flats board and the author of famous Kaunas sports hall. He was accompanied by a German who remained outside the door to wait. Rosenblum needed temporary shelter for his wife and son, as a hiding place was already being prepared for them in the village. Since it was Mom's apartment, we had to ask for her permision. Again, she unhesitatingly agreed. This family managed to escape. The hiding place in our home was of decisive importance. Because of them, perhaps the most risk was taken... the 3-year-old son was taken by a woman in Vilijampole, and Rosenblum lived with his wife and in-laws for about a year with a farmer outside Vilijampole in a specially built hiding place for them. In fact, they were walled up, they only got food through a secret small window. Mom had two difficult experiences because of them. Raja and her son were accommodated in a room behind the kitchen, because the apartment in the basement was occupied by Dr. Gurevich. Once in the evening there was a loud call. The Germans stormed in with noise. We were numb: someone must have lodged a complaint - there will be a search. But fortunately, it turned out that one window was badly darkened... It made a good impression on the Germans that Vlad spoke German fluently. But as soon as we released them, Mom started having a seizure, apparently due to nerves: her stomach ached so badly that she couldn't sit up straight. We gave her sedatives, put her to bed and slowly she relaxed. The thought kept bothering me - are we doing well to risk the health of such a precious person for the sake of complete strangers. The second shock was with the exodus of the Rosenblums. The two had to cross the Vilijampolė bridge, which was patrolled by a German guard, late at night. We had to accompany them. We walked behind and watched. The guard did not talk to them, and we returned home with a relieved heart. But we found the mother completely stunned. How much she survived! When will it end?
Soon we were visited by a farmer named Vincas. We learned from him that the Rozenbliums happily reached the hiding place, where Mrs Rozenblum’s parents, the Königsbergs, had already arrived. Königsbergs had a jewelry store at the end of Laisvė Alley. Barely escaped deportation in 1941. Their daughter, Rozenbliumienė's sister, was taken away. After being released, Rozenbliumienė's parents secretly appeared in Paris. The daughter was very stressed about her parents, but finally received a postcard signed: "Tvoj papa Kaliningrad (Your dad Karaliaučius)". We maintained friendly relations with the Rosenblums, even after they moved to Vilnius in 1969. Both of them are already dead, and their son Mika, who was saved by a woman named Monika in Vilijampolė through great dangers, is an engineer-designer at a design institute in Vilnius.
In conclusion, I want to tell you about Valdis's friend, engineer Julius Zupavičius, and his wife Dita (Judita) Kacaitė. He was a Lithuanian reserve officer. Lithuanian patriot and member of the Jewish Zionist youth organization "Beitar". When she was in the eighth grade of Aušra Gymnasium, she secretly married Julius. It happened in 1941. Valdys met Julius while working in the construction department of the Milk Center. They were brought together by the commonality of views.
When the Germans entered, Julius and Dita ended up in the ghetto. As a reserve officer, Julius was appointed deputy chief of the ghetto police. Belonged to a secret Jewish underground organization from the very first days. We kept in touch with Zupavičius. Valdys even visited Julius at his official post. It was possible to enter the ghetto when Zupavičius' confidant was on duty at the gate. Vladys used to meet Dita in a factory, where she was brought to work with the Jews. I remember once Dita came to us; there were such circumstances that we had to take her to the potato cellar... We also had to help them. And once again with those unfortunate Jewish children. Valdys took it upon himself to help. Talked to Dr. Baublys. The next evening, at the appointed hour after dark, the girl will be brought and placed at the door, as it was done with lost children. Everything happened as agreed. After the happy action more people asked for our help. Vladys had to go to Dr. Baublys about 5-6 times... It is difficult to trace the children's fates now. It was only in 1992 that Elina included wishes from the Jewish poet Lacman's daughter, now a nurse in Israel, in her letter. And from engineer Ratner's daughter, a pediatrician. Both of them were rescued in a nursery…
Our friend Julius Zupavičius died like a real hero. I only recently had to learn more from Dita, who came from Israel. Before the very end of the war, the Jews had set up a hiding place for children deep underground. Only Zupavičius' associates knew about it. Someone betrayed them and they were all arrested and taken to Fort IX. They were divided into two groups and interrogated and tortured. Zupavičius's head was split open, he was covered in bruises and blood. His group held out. But a traitor appeared in another group... Everyone was lined up and those who would be shot were called to step forward. When the name of Zupavičius was heard, his friend Šulgasser (Schulgasser) came forward, thus sacrificing himself for the leader of the organization. However, the Germans understood the deception - they recognized Zupavičius from his split head. Zupavičius and several friends were shot. It happened in March 1944. And the one who betrayed the children's hiding place was cruelly punished by fate. It turns out that when he was arrested, his wife and child also went to that hiding place and perished with everyone.
Dita Zupavičienė, who had just experienced a painful tragedy, together with her mother and youngest brother were taken by the Germans to the Stutthof camp in July 1944. From there they were liberated by the Red Army and returned to Kaunas. Now lives in Tel-Aviv, Israel.
As I mentioned, when the Red Army was approaching, our family moved to the Zubovas family's farm in Judreliai. We find the widow of Šiauliai doctor Kamberis with her seven-year-old son at Vladis parents' house. She lived here under a foreign surname - Kvedarienė. The Judreliai farm went from hand to hand. However, there were no tragic situations - she simply managed not to appear to the Germans. And in the end, there was someone to welcome the Red Army with joy... Thus, the parents also contributed to the rescue of the Jews. And how many such rescuers remained unknown.
Felicija Bortkevičienė helped us. The architect Steponas Stulginskis and his wife took an active part in rescuing Jews. M. Žakevičienė saved the Jewish girl taken by her daughter Jadvyga Jablonskienė. Jadvyga herself died already in the Soviet years in Pravieniškės. A Jewish woman worked for Gruodžius for a while as a helper in the kindergarten. The Jewish boy was taken in by the family of Juozas Paknys, the former director of the Bank of Lithuania. I myself used to get records for Jewish children at the Carmelites and St. Pastors of Trinity churches.
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem web page):
Ruth Latzman Peer
Raya Kenigsberg Rozenblum
Rina Zupovich Wolbe
Judita Sperling Zupovich
Esther Yellin with Sofija Čiurlionienė