* 1910 – 1992
* Recognized in 1997
Alsėdžiai, Plungė district
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Pranas's parents married out of love, not out of calculation. At the time, it was incomprehensible. Pranas's father Ignas, a rich farmer, married Emilija, a poor and unassuming peasant. The family lived beautifully on the farm inherited by Ignas and had four children, Pranas being the youngest. When Pranas was six years old, an accident occurred - Ignas fell off the roof and died. Ignas's sisters threw Emilija, who had become a widow, out of the house with her four small children. All the children had to go to work to make a living without a husband and a home. Pranas herded geese and did other odd jobs. But at the same time he managed to finish primary school, and because he was very talented and thoughtful he finished his four years of education in two.
Later on, Pranas became even better educated - he spoke Russian, German and Latin, was energetic and active, he was working in stained glass, and his stained glass windows still decorate the Vytautas the Great Church in Kaunas.
At one point, an acquaintance suggested that they go to Canada together to build a new life, but it was then, while working as a sacristan in the Raseiniai area, that Pranas met his future wife, Emilija Kusaite, who was working as a housekeeper for her cousin the priest. He did not go to Canada, but in 1939 he moved from Nemakščiai to the Alsėdžiai district, to his wife's farm. Pranas was not very well received by his wife's family, as he had no land of his own, but he had saved up a lot of money by creating stained-glass windows, and used it to buy Emilija's share of land from her sisters.
In a relatively short period of time, Pranas got to know the inhabitants of the area and became friends with them. One by one, three children were born in the Kareivas family.
In 1941, all the farmers in the area were invited to a meeting by the occupying government. A Russian officer and a drunken woman were present at the meeting and translated Lenin's letter to the farmers, the essence of which was the future collective farm and the collectivisation of farms. At the end of the meeting, the farmers protested and threw stools at the officer. The officer escaped, and the next day all the farmers present at the meeting were arrested. This was the first of three times that Pranas Kareiva was arrested. And if it had not been for him, it is likely that the fate of all these people would have been the same as that of the victims of the Rainiai massacre, including members of Emilija's family. Pranas, who spoke fluent Russian when he was locked up, convinced the officer that the woman had mistranslated the letter and that this was the reason why the farmers had revolted. The officer, seeing that the woman who translated the letter was not sober, believed Pranas and released all the prisoners. Pranas's daughter remembers that her father came home that day weighing 45 kilograms.
During the Holocaust, Pranas and Emilija, who knew almost all of the Jews who were trapped in Alsėdžiai county, tried to help everyone as much as they could. In July, when all the Jews of the Alsėdžiai ghetto were shot, only the family of Faktor, a furrier, was left to live temporarily until they finished working with the furs brought from the surrounding villages. Pranas Kareiva took advantage of this situation and secretly bought as much raw fur as he could from the peasants, as well as skins that had already been dressed, and took it all to the Faktors to be "dressed", so that they would have more time to prepare for their escape. Three women found refuge in the family of Pranas and the pregnant Emilija, where they lived for over a year. Unfortunately, a worker in the Kareiva family, who was friends with a local Wehrmacht volunteer, spotted the Jewish women one day and betrayed the Kareiva family. The Jews managed to escape, but Pranas was again imprisoned, although without proof. Later, when everything had calmed down, the women returned to the Kareivas, where they lived to see the end of the war.
After the war, Pranas, realising the fate of Lithuanian farmers, gave some of his land to Emilija's sisters, and with the help of the Jews he avoided deportation. However, after a misunderstanding about butter - which Pranas' daughter thinks was a pretext for revenge - Pranas was arrested again. Only thanks to the Jews was he released this time. The difficulties did not end there - the family was racketeered at night. Knowing that Pranas and Emilia were hiding Jews, the racketeers were convinced that they would find Jewish gold. When in 1949, the racketeers beat up Pranas and Emilija's 8-year-old daughter, the family realised that they could no longer stay in Alsėdžiai. After giving everything to the collective farm, they moved out. For a while they worked various odd jobs until they finally settled in Plateliai.
Elena Vanda, Pranas's daughter, is convinced that if it had not been for Pranas's keen mind and language skills, the family's life would have been worse.
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem website):
Gita Braude Belkind
Dina Lipman Shusterovich
Emilija Kusaitė Kareivienė