* 1901 - 1970
* recognized in 1995
Pikeliai, Mažeikiai district, Lithuania
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Marija and Jeronimas Bukontai, peasants from the Mažeikiai region, had no children of their own. The Židikai priest Vaclovas Martinkus appealed to them, asking them to shelter the baby Mordechaj Michnickis.
The baby's parents - dentist Nechama Gurvičaitė - Michnickienė and lawyer Jankelis Michnickis - entered the Kaunas ghetto. Later, in 1942, Mr. Michnicki was killed in Fort IX, and Alfonso's mother, Nechama, was taken to Stutthof in 1944 and died there. Brother Azriel and aunt Ševa were shot in 1941 near Mažeikiai on Mount Venta.
The Bukontas accepted the baby, Jeronimas Bukontas firmly decided "Here is my son! He will have my last name". The farmers agreed with priest Martinkum and baptized the child with the name of Alfonsas, adding Bukontas' surname in the baptism book. However, the neighbors who lived around had suspicions, so Jeronimas had to go through many difficult trials before the authorities left them alone. In an effort to gain the Germans' trust, Jeronimas demonstrated his knowledge of the German language, which he had acquired while working in Germany at the Krupp factory in the 1920s. They also paid off with feasts, money and vodka. After the end of the war, Jeronimas Bukontas was arrested and sentenced as an "enemy of the people" who collaborated with the Germans. On January 30, 1945, Jeronimas Bukonts was arrested and exiled, he died in 1945 in the forests of Arkhangelsk. According to other data, he died in 1946 in the forest as a partisan.
I grew up in a beautiful single-family house in Žemaitija on the banks of the Varduva River, where I was heartily pampered and loved. Any extraneous talk about my past at home was abruptly stopped by my mother Marija, sometimes very delicately, sometimes angrily. I started hearing this about myself at school after a quarrel with my peers. I began to realize that my origin was surrounded by a terrible and painful secret, but I instinctively avoided unraveling it. Even when I was in high school in Židikiai, the same town where the bloody drama of the 20th century once took place, I didn't figure anything out.
While studying at Vilnius University, I went to the archives several times, but then I realized that after such a disastrous war, it was absurd to search for documents: people died, papers were burned. Once, during a vacation at my father's house, from my aunt Kotryna Šulcienė, I received the address of priest Vaclovas Martinkus, who lives in America - my aunt suggested I write to him, because he had asked about me.
I wrote and soon received an interesting, tender letter. The priest answered many soul-crushing questions, explained, and reassured me. From his other letters, I understood that he cares about my fate not only as a good priest and a good Christian, but as a very interested person close to me. Yes, he was my godfather. When my life was threatened, he made a lot of efforts to get me to the remote village of Dapšiai, in the homestead of farmers Jeronimas and Marija Bukontas; after being baptized, he registered me in the registers of the parish so that the officials of the time would not touch me. He repeatedly taught firmly from the pulpit that no one can be arrested or killed unless he has committed a crime against the law and the court has proven his guilt.
Later I found out that Marija and Jeronimas were also threatened with death, but they did not panic, made excuses, redeemed themselves. Unfortunately, what the German compatriots and immigrants did not do, the NKVD's steel hand did: after brutal interrogations, Jeronimas Bukontas, a healthy 42-year-old farmer, survived only a few months in a Soviet prison. Mother died without finding out what happened to her husband in the forests of Arkhangelsk, while building the railway towards the Belomor canal... Almost 50 years later, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Jeronimas Bunkontas was rehabilitated.
There was no possibility to meet priest Vaclovas Martinkus: the KGB followed our correspondence, opened letters, and openly interfered with communication. In the end I was offered a stay with a priest on unacceptable terms, and when I refused it, I got into a long-lasting embarrassment.
I am glad that after the restoration of statehood in Lithuania, my second parents Jeronimas and Marija Bukontai and priest Vaclovas Martinkus were awarded with Crosses for the Rescue of the Dying.
Risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones, they fulfilled the Torah's oath: love your neighbor as yourself. Without loud speeches and confusing inferences, they performed a sacred duty: they saved a dying man. Therefore, their names are rightly inscribed on the wall of the Righteous Among the Nations on Mount Herzl, in the heart of Jerusalem.
Bukontas' house in Dapšiai
Alfonsas in the middle,
Alfonsas Bukontas 1960