*1893 11 16 - 1942 04 27
*recognized in 1988
Petrašiūnai cemetery, Kaunas
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Kazys was born on November 16, 1893 in Gudelių farmstead, near Papilis, Biržai county. Kazys' mother Petronėlė was married to Antanas Binkis, 40 years older, the future poet's father. Antanas had lost an eye in the Turkish war. Petronėlė worked as a chambermaid for the French Count of Papilís, Choiseul de Gouffier, or Šuazel in Lithuanian. Kazys was thirteen when his father Antanas died. Viktoras Binkis, Kazys' grandson, wonders why his grandfather and his mother were rejected by the family of Antanas Binkis. Kazys's son Gerardas (Viktoras's father) reasoned: "My relatives were different in appearance from Kazys. He was naturally different from them: black-haired, brown-eyed, tall, very lively and agile - a true Frenchman! Since Kazys' father was very old, he might not have had any children, which means that Kazys is not Binkis, but Schuazel!" Of course, maybe this is just a rumour. Or maybe it's true..." Kazys was always well-dressed, elegant, well-groomed. He was characterised by his noble posture, temperament and ambition. It was not without reason that his friend, the poet Antanas Miškinis, described him as "as simple as a peasant, as elegant as a diplomat, as proud as a duke".
From childhood, Kazys was very energetic and full of ideas. He was always playing pranks during his studies at the Papiliai Folk Primary School and Biržai Gymnasium, and he used to justify himself by saying, "If I don't kneel in a corner one day, something is missing, and that's enough." He was expelled from the gymnasium for his disobedience. He left the agricultural school by himself - with a plough, he plowed, "Kazys will never plough again." He went to Vilnius, where he graduated from the Lithuanian Committee's teacher training course at the beginning of the First World War. When Poland occupied Vilnius, he volunteered for the Iron Wolf Regiment and composed war songs (Iron Wolf March).
During the war, Kazys started teaching in his native Papiliai and met a colleague, Pranutė, the young daughter of a wealthy farmer from Nariūnai, Adomonis. The friendship lasted almost five years, weathered a break-up when Binkis was living in Vilnius after the war, and when he went to Berlin in 1920 to begin his studies in literature and philosophy at the Humboldt University, where he studied intermittently as a free listener until 1923. While abroad, he became acquainted with the new European art. On his return to Lithuania, he mobilised young artists, organised meetings and promoted modernism.
In 1921, Pranutė and Kazys were married by Juozas Tumas-Vaižgantas in the Palėvenė Church. The newlyweds settled in Kaunas. Kazys travelled regularly to Berlin, where he absorbed the modernist and avant-garde artistic, cultural and bohemian life of this world cultural capital. These tendencies were "imported" to the Provisional Capital as well: representatives of avant-garde poetry began to gather in the house of Kazys Binkis; soon, surrounded by young poets, he took up residence in the legendary Konrads café. Binkis worked as a journalist and initiated the gathering of the avant-garde Four Winds literary group, and published a collective programme of new art, The Prophet of Four Winds.
In 1924, Kazys Binkis bought the Kalnaberžė estate, which had belonged to the tsar's prime minister, Pyotr Stolypin, at auction. "He took a large loan from the bank and bought it," says his grandson. - "He wanted to turn the estate into a camp for free artists, and he didn't even think about how to maintain the farm. All he could think about was that it would be a place for plein air painting, a community of artists would gather, and the money would come in. Maybe one congress took place, then the bailiffs came, inventoried everything and that was the end of it."
Her husband's bohemian life was alien to Pranutė. One by one, children were born: a little daughter, Eleonora, and a little son, Gerardas. Unable to manage the debt-ridden estate on her own, Pranė and her children moved in with her family. In 1927, she died here at Nariūnai Manor at the age of just 29 after catching a cold.
Two years later, when Kazys Binkis became a widower, he married Sofija Kudrevičiūtė - Nacevičienė. Sofija was also the young widow of the lawyer Juozas Nacevičius, with two daughters, Irena and Lilijana. She used to spend her summers with her daughters in Balsiai Manor, Pakruojis District, surrounded by 200 hectares of land and forests. The Kaunas' Beau Monde, with Boris Daugavietis at its head, used to gather here. "Binkis saw Sofia in the evening, carrying a kerosene lamp: a black dress, a halo of golden curls. Sophie was beautiful, well-groomed, educated, spiritual. She simply enchanted Kazys", says Kazys' granddaughter Sofija Ligija Makutėnienė. When the couple got married, Kazys used to joke: "We set up a cooperative to raise our children."
Viktoras tells what he heard from his dad, Kazys' son: "Kazys Binkis used to come home at dawn, at 4 or 6 o'clock in the morning, he used to sleep until noon, and the law in the house was: 'Daddy is asleep - be silent!' When he got up, he went to the city: newspapers, publishing houses, and bohemia again. I once asked my father, "When did he create and write?" He replied: "At night, when he came back. In the mornings, I would find a lot of crumpled sheets of paper piled up in his room. I said, 'Why do you write and throw it away? He replied: "It's bad. I wish you knew how hard it is to write!..."
In Balsiai, the poet decided to farm, and his grandchildren says: "Kazys Binkis, who was such an arrogant, frivolous person, was convinced that he was so talented that he could manage anything, anywhere. He proposed an innovation - growing sugar beet: "Lithuania will always need sugar." He sowed beet all over his land. It was a bad season, the beet didn't come up, there were no helpers to harvest it, it was left over the winter, it snowed, and the beet project collapsed. Then they decided to breed white leghorns. One morning they got up and saw the biggest mountain of snow in the yard and snowflakes swirling in the wind. It turns out that the whole leghorn farm has been gutted by ferrets or martens! Binkis planned to rebuild the manor and drew up the projects with the greatest ambition."
Kazys Binkis was very passionate, which is reflected in his work; he was passionate about everything. Kazys began publishing his poems in 1913. He contributed to the magazine Vaivorykštė, the almanac Pirmasai baras. Early poetry was motivated by rural nature and youthful love. The poems are traditionally sing-song, full of joyful mood, frivolous playfulness; they are also marked by new shifts in Lithuanian poetics - a nuanced impressionistic image, intimate intonations, flexible language, precise form. Binkis's sudden turn to modernism is marked by the collection of poems 100 Springs, which is anchored in expressive poster-like expression, irony, and prose poems; in the poems of the oratorical type, the image of the windmill, the cult of youth, the elements (vitality, rebellion, and the wind), and the cult of creative powers of man dominate. Binkis's work renewed Lithuanian poetry and turned it in the direction of Western modernism. He compiled anthologies of poetry, created humorous poems and poetic feuilletons under the pseudonym of Alijošius (aloe), while taking care of rural education. His work for children is notable: lively didactic poems. The morally problematic play Atžalynas vividly and powerfully depicts the life of schoolchildren and expresses faith in goodness. The grotesque drama General Rehearsal, created in 1940, highlights the absurdity of war in a modern, conditional form, encourages discussion of the tragic nature of human existence, and influenced the development of Lithuanian theatre. He wrote educational history books and biographical essays on A. Smetona and M. Valančius. He translated works by A. Pushkin, I. Krylov, L. Tolstoy and other writers.
When the Soviets came in 1940, Kazys Binkis was already seriously ill - his heart was on strike. At the beginning of the war, his health deteriorated even more, so his family protected him from negative information as much as possible. The family "council" decided not to tell the seriously ill man that the black-haired, dark-eyed visitor who appeared at home was a child who had escaped from the ghetto. Since Lilijana's (Sofija's daughter) fiancé Vladas, who was living with the Binkis at the time, was dark-skinned, it was decided to introduce Gita as his relative. "But one warm day, when we were all sitting around the table, a tall, thin man with a very pale face and large dark eyes appeared in the dining room doorway. He was leaning on his walking stick and looked at all of us calmly and perceptively. I was so embarrassed that I just froze with the spoon in my hand. A quick, barely perceptible smile appeared and hid in Mr Binkis's face, in his big, dark eyes. He was silent." - Gita recounts her memories in Sofija Binkienė's book "And without a weapon, warriors". "What are you telling me here, what kind of a relative Varčikas is here - I understand that she is a Jewish child." He only rebuked his wife's courageous choice: "And what did you think of me?" From then on, the famous poet and his housekeeper developed a friendship, sharing every bite his friends brought him. Kazys reassured Gita by saying "Don't be sad. The horrible days of the massacre will pass. The murderers will fail - it cannot be otherwise. I will not live to see the end of them - health. And you will be a witness to their downfall." The Binkis family's support for Jews during the Holocaust was very strong - the Binkis house was nicknamed the "Jewish hotel", because sometimes sixteen "illegal citizens" stayed in the apartment at the same time. And those who stayed for a day or two were over thirty.
Kazys died on 27 April 1942 after a severe heart attack. Crowds of Kaunas residents flocked to his home to say goodbye to Kazys Binkis.
Gita Judelevičiūtė (Gita Judelevitch)
Raja Judelevičienė (Raja Judelevitch)
Paša (Pesia) Melamed
Fruma - Mania Ginkienė
Sofija (Sonia) Ginkaitė Šabadienė
Beba Šatenštein - Taborisky
Gutia Šmuklerytė -Fiš
Samuelis (Šmuelis) Segalis
Rivka Šmuklerytė - Ošerovičienė
Information collected using:
Magazine "Legendos", Gerda Prancūzevičiūtė, Who set up the "Jewish Hotel" in the house of the Lithuanian poet hooligan and quadriplegic Kazis Binkis during the war (Kas per karą lietuvių poeto chuligano, keturvėjininko Kazio Binkio namuose įsteigė „Žydų viešbutį“), 2023 No. 1
Kazys Binkis with kids
Kazys and Sofija Binkis with their kids
1921: newlyweds Pranė and Kazys Binkis
Gita Judelevitch with her parients before the war