* 1896 – 1947
* Recognized in 1996
Žemaičių kalvarija, Plungė district
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Juozas and Eugenija lived on a farm inherited by Eugenija in Šašaičiai, Telšiai county. Eugenija inherited this farm from her parents, the Sondeckis. The Sondeckis had owned the farm for 250 years. The family had three children - two sons, Gediminas and Algis, and a daughter, Alina.
Juozas had the bright head and golden hands of a design engineer. When he came to his wife's rich farm, he turned it into one of the most mechanised. Juozas continued the work of Laurynas Sondeckis, Eugenia's dad, who always managed the farm skilfully and innovated. At a time when there was no electricity in the surrounding villages, Juozas, with the help of his eldest son Gediminas, a student, installed an appliance on a pole in the yard, which provided the farmhouse with electricity on the principle of a windmill. Markas Petuchauskas, who lived on the farm, remembers it as follows: "A sturdily built two-ended Samogitian hut with bright white windows, a huge garden, and the beehives that Juozas tended so skilfully. He worked slowly, with a certain pleasure and concentration, as if he were carrying out a very important, I would say scientific mission or a church service. A huge fenced yard, with a stream in the middle, pigsties behind it, a barn further on, and a stable on the other side. Every day at dawn, I would take out the Kazlauskas' large herd of sixteen dairy cows, a few heifers, a mighty bull and forty black-headed sheep. My enemy was an angry, huge ram (at least that's what it looked like to me, a twelve-year-old, at the time)."
During the Holocaust, a 12-year-old Jewish boy, Markas Petuchauskas, found refuge with the Kazlauskas through Eugenija's brother Jackus Sondeckis. Markas's father, Samuel Petuchauskas, a vice-burgomaster of Šiauliai, who was awarded the Order of Gediminas of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was shot in Paneriai at the beginning of the Hitler occupation. Many Lithuanian families helped Mark and his mother Maria. They were able to leave Vilnius with forged documents in the name of Maria and Jonas Petrauskas. For security reasons, the mother and child were separated - Marija went to work as a maid at Nasvyčiai Manor and Markas as a shepherd for the Kazlauskas. However, the good heart of Juozas Kazlauskas did not allow the mother and child to be separated for long - Markas Petuchauskas writes in his memoirs: "About a month after Ruzgienė brought me to Šašaičiai, Kazlauskas suddenly told me: "You know, Joni, I keep thinking about your mother. How she's alone there, doesn't know anything about you. I'll get my horse and jump up to visit her. I'll be back in the evening, and I'll bring you her regards." As evening falls, I can already see Kazlauskas' eagerly awaited brick in the distance. And I can't believe it, my mother's face shining with happiness. And so Kazlauskas has put new worries on his head, sparing a stranger's child, a stranger's woman." Everyone took care of Mark as best they could - Eugenija, seeing that the child could not eat porridge from the common bowl, put his morning porridge on a separate plate instead of urging him to adapt.
And later, when Mark and his mother had to find new hiding places for safety reasons, Juozas Kazlauskas was always there.
After the war, Juozas's fate was tragic: "A peasant with no education, he had the bright head of a design engineer and golden hands. And a heart of gold. The fearless heart of a warrior and the mind of a humanist philosopher. And the fates of such people are often tragic. In Šašaičiai, in the land of the beautiful Varduva, in Žemaičiai Kalvarija, he had the reputation of a godless cicilik (socialist). And then, in the post-war years, word spread that he had saved Jews. All this apparently led to his cruel fate. Paradox. A kulak, the owner of 40 hectares of land, who had hired a number of mercenaries, should have been liquidated as a class according to Soviet procedure. But he was killed by those who fought against the Soviets. After a long search, he was found in the woods, hanged on a rope. His face was so disfigured that only his wife recognised the corpse. In his last letter in 1946, Juozas Kazlauskas wrote to us that things were getting "hot" in Šašaičiai, and he promised to move quickly to Vilnius, where we would meet soon. He didn't make it."
After Juozas's early death, Eugenija did not remarry. Both sons studied in Kaunas. Eugenija brought up Alina on the farm. During the Soviet era, both sons, Algis and Gediminas, were arrested, interrogated and exiled. One son returned from exile, the other did not.
When she was older, Eugenija moved away from the farm to live with her daughter in Gargždai.
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem website):
Marija Petuchauskienė (Lichtmacher)
From left: Gediminas Kazlauskas, Juozas Kazlauskas, Eugenija Kazlauskienė (Sondeckaitė), Saulius Sondeckis (holding a puppy in his arms), Jackus Sondeckis, Emilija Sondeckienė, Algimantas Kazlauskas (with a kitten on his shoulder), Laurinas Sondeckas. Šašaičiai, 16 July 1938.
The Sondeckis and Kazlauskas families, from left: Juozas Kazlauskas, his wife Eugenija Kazlauskienė (Sondeckaitė), son Gediminas Kazlauskas, Emilija Sondeckienė, Jackus Sondeckis and Laurinas Sondeckas. Algimantas Kazlauskas and Saulius Sondeckis (with their puppy) in front. Šašaičiai, summer 1938
From left: Jackus Sondeckis, Juozas Kazlauskas, Laurinas Sondeckas, his wife Emilija, Eugenija Kazlauskienė. Front from left: Saulius Sondeckis, Gediminas and Algimantas Kazlauskas. Šašaičiai, summer 1938
Markas Petuchauskas with his mother Marija