* 1901 - 1989
* Recognized in1997
Lauko Soda cemetery,
Telšiai district, Lithuania
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Juozapas Gasiūnas was a priest in various parishes of Telšiai diocese in Žemaitija, the western region of Lithuania. In 1940–1943, he was the dean of Varniai parish, and in 1943–1949, the dean of Tverai parish. He saved Jews during the war. In this risky endeavour, he was aided by his maid and nun Elena Rakelytė (Elena Rakel) from Belarus. From 1965 to the end his life, priest Juozapas Gasiūnas was the dean of Lauko Soda.
In 1986, the 50th anniversary of Juozapas Gasiūnas’ priesthood was celebrated in Lauko Soda. Roza Šeraitė-Goldinšteinienė and Zita Sabaliauskienė (Feiga Kacaitė) – the Jewish girls he had saved during the war – also attended the celebration. Priest Juozapas Gasiūnas was buried in Lauko Soda. In 1997, he was awarded the Life Saviour's Cross and titled the Righteous Among the Nations.
About the help of the priest Juozapas Gasiūnas to the Jews
From the 1996 letter of Algirdas Gasiūnas to the museum.
From the account of my uncle:
/.../ One summer night, someone knocked on his apartment door. When he opened the door, he saw a flock of children with six Jewish kids among them. What to do? There was a police station and several German soldiers just in front of the rectory so he risked being arrested. Priest Juozapas Gasiūnas and his nun Elena Rakelytė talked a bit and decided to hide the children. In the beginning they kept them in the attic and the maid’s room. Later, they sent them to reliable people. They took care of the children all the time and supported them. Someone informed that the priest was hiding Jewish children, and he had to move from Varniai to Tverai in 1943. However, he did not abandon the children and continued to take care of them. /.../ /.../ What encouraged the priest Juozapas to take care of these children? The answer is short: love to his neighbour. We, the children of his brother Stanislovas Gasiūnas, felt this love too. When our mother died, uncle took us to his home and thus we became like sisters and brothers to the Jewish kids. Even now I feel as if Rožė and Zita Sabaliauskienė were my sisters. /.../
The memoirs of Chaja Roza Goldinštein (Šeraitė) /.../ During the war, farmers mostly kept to themselves, but they would open their hearts to Juozas Gasiūnas, the dean of Varniai. He would find out through his parishioners about the families that were hiding the Jews and advised where to move the fugitives in case of danger. I hid at the dean Juozapas Gasiūnas’ home for a year too. In 1986, when the dean Juozapas Gasiūnas was celebrating his 50th anniversary of his priesthood, the Jews he had saved were among the guests in his house. When I was going to congratulate the priest, I thought that his was the rare occasion to publicly say many nice words to him. My heart was busting with gratitude… But at the last moment I realised that words are not enough to express my gratitude. I gave him a bouquet of roses, then I fell to my knees and said: “Saviour!” /.../
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem website):
Chaja Roza Šeraitė-Goldinštein
Feiga Kacaitė (Sabaliauskienė Zita)
Information collected using:
Katalogas "Išgelbėjęs vieną gyvybę išgelbėja visą pasaulį"
Chaja Roza Šeraitė-Goldinštein is telling a speech during Juozapas' funeral