* 1902 - 1989
* recognized in 2004
About the rescuer and the rescue story
The family of Yehuda and Miriam Meras, together with their children Icchokas and Yonina, before the war lived in Kelmė, Lithuania. Jehuda Meras was Director of the Jewish people’s bank in Kelmė.
As soon as the war broke out, local armed “white armbands” – members of the so-called “front of activists of Lithuania” started to take violent measures against the Jews. Yehuda Meras, who resisted the atrocities of “white ribbons”, was shot at the end of July in 1941, near Raseiniai. Icchokas’ and Yonina’s mother – Miriam Meras was shot on July 29,1941 near the Kelmė mansion, together with other Jews from adjacent towns. On the same day Icchokas and Yonina together with other underage children were driven to the pit to be shot, but by fortunate coincidence, half way they had been turned back and thus remained alive.
Michalina Legantienė was the first rescuer of Icchokas and Yonina. She was the Meras’ family housekeeper before the war. At one moment, when the guard was not watching, local women managed to “steal” some of the children and took them to their houses.
Michalina Legantienė took Icchokas and Yonina. Other children, who were not taken by anybody, were murdered by “white ribbons” on August 22, 1941 during the last mass murder of the Jews of Kelmė. Icchokas stayed with Michalina, but Yonina was taken by Petronėlė Urbelienė-Unikauskienė. Michalina lived in the house, which belonged to Petronėlė. The local authorities found out about the hiding children, and Yonina with Icchokas were taken to a camp in Laukodėmė village. They managed to run away and return to their rescuers.
Wishing to help, Michalina and Petronėlė started looking for hiding places. For several days the children had been accepted by Zofia Sankienė. They stayed with her for several days and returned again to Michalina and Petronėlė. Michalina’s husband – shoemaker Robertas Legantas, a local German, did not want Icchokas to stay with them. Quite often he used to come home drunk and attacked Icchokas threatening to kill him. Michalina defended the boy covering him with her own body. Every day the situation was becoming worse and worse, and Michalina asked her neighbours to take Icchokas. Since the neighbours were scared of the Germans and the “white ribbons” they moved Icchokas from one place to another until he found himself out in the street.
One day Icchokas was sitting and crying on the threshold of one house. Juozas Dainauskas was passing by. He learnt that the boy was Jewish and nobody was willing to hide him. Juozas Dainauskas took the boy home and left him to his wife – Bronislava Dainauskienė.
Thus, Icchokas became the 7th child in the Dainauskas family. The family was very poor. They did not have enough food. Danger could come from everywhere. They had to beware even of strangers passing by. When the eldest son – Petras saw somebody approaching, he used to grab Icchokas and carry him on his shoulders to the forest, where he was familiar with almost every path and where he prepared beforehand several hiding places, which were made use of all the year round – in winter and summer, autumn and spring.
One day policemen found Icchokas; then Petras told them that they could kill him instead of the boy. Petras was near the boy all the time to be able to help in case of danger. Bronislava Dainauskienė became Icchokas’ second mother. She had been trying not only to save the boy, but also give him motherly tenderness and warmth. She used to cure him without doctors, whom it was not possible to turn to, and without medicine, which it was not possible to get. She took care of him as of her own child. Icchokas had been hiding with the Dainauskas family until October 6, 1944, when the Russian came, and continued to stay with them even after the war, till 1946. Icchokas and Yonina managed to survive the war years only thanks to selfless efforts of all the noble and kind people around. Icchokas Meras and his sister Yonina Meras Gersh live in Israel and until now continue to keep in touch with the children of their rescuers.
Icchokas Meras described his sufferings during the war in his autobiographical book, which was published in 1960. The theme of the Holocaust became the main theme of the works by a famous writer Icchokas Meras.