* Recognized in 2004
Raudondvaris cemetery, Kaunas district, Lithuania
About the rescuer and the rescue story
The fisherman Juozas Dautartas lived with his wife Julija in the village of Šileliai, (Raudondvaris County, Kaunas District). They had four unmarried, grown-up sons who were still living with them during the period of the German occupation. In February 1944, Jakov Abramovich, a Jewish doctor who was working in forced labor near the village, appealed to Juozas for help. Jakov was seeking a way to bring his almost three-year-old daughter Ariela from the Lithuanian orphanage run by Dr. Petras Baublys in Kaunas, where she was living at that time. Ariela was living there as an ethnic Lithuanian and only the director knew her true origins. Ariela's identity, however, was discovered by the staff member when they found that she spoke Russian and Yiddish. When Ariela fell ill, that staff member did not wish to look after her and Dr. Baublys informed her father that it was preferable to move her elsewhere. Juozas and his wife Julija agreed to help. On February 4, Julija arrived at the orphanage, accompanied by her eldest son Zigmas, and asked to adopt Ariela (who was registered there under the name of Bronė Mažilytė) claiming that she was the illegitimate daughter of a relative. Ariela was very ill and gave the impression that she would not live long. However, thanks to the care that she received in the home of the rescuers, and with the nighttime visits of her father, the doctor, she recovered from her illness. The Dautartas couple presented her to their neighbors proudly, telling them how they had managed to nurse her back to health after adopting her when she was critically ill.
The Dautartas sons treated Ariela as a little sister, played with her and spoilt her. When the front drew near to the area, Ariela's parents, Jakov and Bronia Abramovich also came to hide with Juozas and his wife. After they arrived and were hidden in the barn, it emerged that somebody from the vicinity had observed them and reported to the police that there were Jews in the area. The police searched the village houses, including the Dautartas home, but did not find them. After the war, the survivors remained in contact with their rescuers and their descendants, even after immigrating to Israel in 1973.
The writer Vladas Dautartas remembers:
One night a Jew, having escaped from the ghetto, came to our place. We knew him: he was a physician who had studied in France, and had been doing well. However, he lost everything when Lithuania was invaded by the Germans. He asked for help. In the city was his first-born two-year-old daughter. She was ill, weak and would not survive if we did not accept her.
I remember those horrible days, weeks, months and that year, when a little adoptee appeared in our family. “God did not give us a girl, so now we shall raise her,” my mother told our neighbours, relatives and the whole village. As soon as my brother had brought her from the city, on the same day my father made her a wicker cot from willow cut at the riverside. The village people had much to say about my parents: they did not care about their own child; look at her dark skin and her big eyes; even a fool can see that she is Jewish. People whispered and reasoned, but no one reported the case to the authorities of the district. And that poor little Jewish girl, dear me, was hardly alive. Her small body was covered with boils from hunger and disease. At night she cried, and calmed down only when she collapsed. My father and mother merely implored God’s help and washed and washed the girl’s wounds with camomile tea and rubbed them with salt-free butter. One night, when the girl seemed to be fading away, they decided to baptise her. Both prayed as hard as they could and performed the christening service.
Thus a little Christian by the name of Bronytė appeared in our home. When the doctor learned about the baptism, he sighed deeply, dropped his head and said silently after a while: “There is only one thing I want: I want her to live...” She lived, grew, called my father her grandpa and my mother her mummy. Whenever a truck with German soldiers happened to roll up in the village, I would take Bronytė in my arms and carried her into the osier-bed at the riverside, just to be on the safe side.
The war was not yet over, it was still raging in East Prussia, when unexpectedly the doctor and his wife quite openly entered our yard. The palour of their faces, having hidden from the sun for a long time, was obvious. Their eyes, however, were bright with excitement and happiness: they had survived and their firstborn was alive. “Bronytė, this is your real daddy and your real mummy,” said my mother, introducing the girl to the guests. The girl somehow crouched down and started cuddling up to my mother, and alarm crept over her child’s face. “No, you are my mummy,” she said, and started crying. Tears filled the eyes of the doctor, his wife, and all of us that warm summer afternoon...
After the war, the doctor often visited us in the countryside. He liked to talk with my parents, and helped them as much as he could. However, those good times did not last long. One July day my father died suddenly, and after several months my mother passed away, too. My parents’ deaths left deep scars in my heart. However, I do not feel lonely. By my side is the doctor, his wife and Bronytė, now called Brocha-Ariela.
When they left for Israel, the Abramovich gave me tokens of remembrance at Vilnius railway station and asked me to share them among our grown-up children and to tell them about the tragedy of the Jewish nation. Our children have known about friendship between families since childhood, and they are proud of their grandparents.
From Hands Bringing Life and Bread, Volume 3,
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. Vilnius, 2005
Ariela Abramovich Sef:
[…] Mama Julia and ‘Grandad’ Dovtort (Dautartas) were very fond of me: people definitely believed that I was their family’s child and they used to tell the neighbours a fairy-tale to the effect that they had taken me in, after their daughter had apparently had a child by a German and died soon afterwards. They had me christened at the nearby church and used to take me to services there every Sunday: I used to pray very earnestly. I would learn my prayers faster than the other children of my age in the village. Everything was splendid. I even used to go with the other village children to the local SS head-quarters and the Germans used to give us chocolate. They say that I used to come away with more chocolate than anyone else. I used to make a deeper impression on the Germans than the other village children because my hair was so fair. […]
From Ariela Abramovich Sef's book “Born in the Ghetto: My Triumph Over Adversity”
Ariela Abramovich Sef
Bronia Maizel Abramovich
Julija Dautartienė with Ariela, 1945
Ariela two years old, next to the ghetto house, 1943.