*Recognized in 1997
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Information based on the publication "Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Utena (1930 - 2006)"
Sister Juozapa was born on 11 November 1907 in Samogitia, in the village of Girdvainiai, Kvėdarna parish, Tauragė county (now Šilalė district). She was the eighth child in a large family of eleven children. Her father, Antanas Kibelis, died early in life, so all the worries of the home fell on the shoulders of her mother, Bronislava, who did her best not only to feed and clothe the children, but also to send them to school. Thanks to her caring mother, Juozapa, fondly called Juozapėlė until her death, was able to study and graduate from the Šilalė Programmar School. During the restoration of independent Lithuania, when Catholic organisations - the Catholic Women's Society, the Angelaičiai, the Spring Breakers - were being established, Juozapėlė was not left behind. She was involved in the activities of these organisations: she called meetings, invited lecturers to them, and together with the spiritual leaders participated in the general meetings and congresses of Catholic organisations. She was particularly protective of the „angelaičiai“, organising games and lectures for them. In the summer, she would organise "outings" in one village or another. However, these "outings" were different: they gathered early, had fun, sang, danced and went home as the sun went down.
These were meaningful days of youth, but she wanted something more. she was drawn more and more to Jesus. Fr Stanislovas Juocas (buried in the churchyard of Žemaičių Kalvarija) sincerely helped Juozapa to understand herself and her vocation. This spiritual director enlightened her about the essence and beauty of the monastic life and described the women's monasteries in Lithuania.
Once, when she came with this priest to one of the Catholic gatherings, Juozapa met with Sr. Uršulė Novickaitė, head of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At that time Ursulė was studying at the Vytautas Magnus University, she was young, beautiful and very kind sister. It was a fateful meeting.
At the beginning of December 1931, the young Samogitian arrived in Marijampolė, a city she did not know, and before the Three Kings' Day, after attending a retreat with all of the sisters, she was admitted to the postulancy. On 2 July of the following year, she was received into the retreat in this church. On July 2, 1933, she was sent by the Monastery to another part of Lithuania, Utena.
Sister Zuzana Marija Koncepta Janušaitytė was Sister Jozapa's closest spiritual friend and companion in her most responsible work in the most difficult conditions of Lithuania.
The fateful summer of 1940 arrived. Russian tanks rolled through Lithuania, roaring eerily, and a different kind of order prevailed: newspapers and magazines were shut down, Catholic organisations were abolished, and monks were expelled from their convents. The sisters who worked in Utena also had to leave their institutions and disperse.
Sisters Juozapa Kibelaitė and Zuzana Janušaitytė went to Samogitia, to the relatives of Sister Juozapa. They stayed there until July 1941, when the situation changed with the outbreak of the war and, invited by Canon Petras Rauda, they both returned to work at the children's shelter in Utena. There they found a huge mess: the head of the children's shelter had run away, the children had been distributed to the villagers. Only three old workers remained: Juozas Kozmanas, a farm worker, Zosė Markevičiūtė and Veronika Rakauskaitė, who had already linked her life to the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor, although nobody knew it at the time.
People from the villages returned the children who had been given to them for care to the Children's Shelter. Around sixty orphans gathered again. Sister Juozapa Kibelaitė was appointed head and Sister Zuzana Janušaitytė was appointed bookkeeper. The orphanage was again given 15 hectares of land from the nationalised Balsevičius Manor. The land had to be cultivated and animals had to be raised to feed the orphans. Apart from Juozapelė and Zuzana, other sisters living and working in the Children's Home were Česlova Rasiulytė, Emilija Stragaitė, Jadvyga Eidejūtė, Stefanija Eigelytė and Ona Juozūnaitė.
In the special conditions of the war, the orphanage also had the courage to take a long-term risk - to rescue Jews, because at the beginning of the war, a Jewish mother and her son, the Shinder, were wounded during a bombing raid in Utena. The boy's father, a soldier, had already left for the depths of Russia. The injured mother and child were admitted to hospital. When the Germans started shooting Jews, both wounded were in danger. As a result, the child, Aleksiukas Shinder, was taken in by the Children's Home in Utena. In order to avoid suspicion, his name was kept and his surname changed. At the time, the boy was about three years old and his eye was injured. The mother managed to escape and went into hiding somewhere in Kaunas. Occasionally, she came to visit her son. Sister Juozapa would take her into the servants' room and invite Aleksiukas in. The mother managed to find an eye doctor, who cured the eye and, because he was a good person, did not betray the child or the sisters who took care of him. Aleksiukas stayed in the orphanage throughout the war. Apart from Sisters Juozapė and Zuzana, it was also known to Sisters Stefutė Eigelytė and Veronika Rakauskaitė, who, as mentioned above, had returned from Marijampolė. [...]
As Sister Juozapa told us before her death, when the Germans were expelled from Lithuania, both Aleksiukas's parents met again by chance in one of the hospitals in Vilnius, and when they recovered, they came to Utena to pick up their son. Aleksiukas was already grown up, but had not yet started school. It was May, the lilacs were in bloom, and the surroundings of the Jasoniai Children's Home were really beautiful. The father was unable to go inside the Children's Home, but walked excitedly around the paths. [...]
Summer 1944. The front was approaching. The Germans were retreating, bombing Utena relentlessly, and buildings were falling down. Deafening explosions frightened day and night. What were the Sisters to do, looking after a large orphanage? The large barn, and especially the cellar underneath, served as a refuge. When there was the roar of planes, or when the lights of the city were overhead at night, the Sisters would take the children to a shelter in another building, wrap them in blankets and carry them. The older children also helped.
After the war, the Sisters stayed on at the Children's Home. It was decided to separate the bigger and smaller children. The bigger ones, who were already attending school, were left in Utena, while the smaller ones were moved to the Jasoniai Manor, four kilometres away. Staff are again needed. But who will move to the village in such troubled times, when the Soviets are always looking for Lithuanian partisans? The Sisters. They take it upon themselves to serve the poor even under Soviet rule.
In 1947, they move to Jasonis with their little children. Angelė Getvilienė, a former pupil of the Utena Children's Home, which the Sisters had been running all along, was appointed headmistress. Sister Juozapa Kibelaitė was appointed head of the economic department, Sister Zuzana Janušaitytė was employed as an accountant, Sister Ona Juozūnaitė as a housekeeper at the children's home, and Sister Stefanija Eigelytė as a storekeeper. In addition, Sister Marija Agnietė Rutkauskaitė started working as a nurse, and Sisters Viktorija Jankauskaitė and Veronika Miškinytė as childminders.
In this way, the Soviets, finding no other way out, employed all the Sisters in the Jasoniai Children's Home, even though they knew they were nuns. How wonderfully God took care of the little orphans and the Sisters.
At that time, all that was left of the Jasonis estate was a single-storey house, a bathhouse, a few small outbuildings, because the other outbuildings had been burned down and... and thirty hectares of land for an auxiliary farm.
The number of children arriving from the various distribution points and orphanages was increasing. At the same time, the number of workers increased. Working conditions were difficult. Sister Juozapa and Sister Zuzana lived in the office, while the others, together with the secular women who worked in the orphanage, lived in two or three rooms.
Since the premises of the manor were not suitable for the children, it was necessary to start renovation and construction work. The second floor of the house was added, the outbuildings were rebuilt and some of them were converted into living quarters. A large brick house with a hall and a canteen for the children was built, as well as two other houses, one with a laundry and a sauna and the other with rooms for servants.
Gradually, the living conditions changed for the nurses, the staff and especially for the children.
Year after year, the Jasonis Children's Home became not only comfortable and cosy, but also a true home from the Motherland. The environment has been nurtured by hard-working hands and has become extremely beautiful. The large flower gardens were full of colourful flowers from spring to the cold autumn, the pond, the forest, the beautiful rooms decorated with national motifs, the well-decorated and well-behaved children attracted guests.
The orphanage was maintained at state expense, so the order had to be ideal. Audits were carried out every year and lasted a week. Inspectors came not only from Vilnius but also from Moscow. And what did they find? The homes were different from the others in terms of order, care and provision for the children. State money was not wasted, let alone stolen.
To show off, the Utena district authorities and the Children's Home Department of the Ministry of Education brought guests not only from Lithuania and other republics, but also from... from abroad. When such distinguished guests started to visit, the worries of all of them increased: everyone had to be welcomed, occupied, and often even fed... Staff from similar orphanages were sent to learn how to run an orphanage. The news about Jasonis spread through Lithuania. The orphanage was hailed as the most exemplary in Lithuania.
The children loved the good sisters who were like caring mothers to them. The former pupil, Danutė Mirauskaitė - Ambrozaitienė, was grateful for the care and love, and with the compassion of a true daughter, she took care of Sister Juozapa - her mother and grandmother - until her death. In her memoirs Danutė writes:
" [...] Thus, in the winter of 1950, I found a second mother, and not only her, but at least two at once. They were sisters Juozapa Kibelaitė and Zuzana Janušaitytė. [...] I remember how at night the partisans would knock on the window and Mum and Stefutė would go to give them food. And during the day, the Stribai would come and they would have to be fed. [...] The children were taken on all kinds of excursions: to Vilnius, Kaunas, Palanga, and money was needed for carousels and ice-cream. There was no cash, and they had to find it. So they raised a bull, to which the villagers would take the cows, and in this way they would get money for the children's ice cream. [...] Thanks to everyone's devotion and care, the children were well looked after, well fed, and beautifully dressed. Women who had been deceived, wronged and lonely by their husbands were hired. Here they found work for themselves and shelter for their children. [...] Even after many years, former children of the orphanage, now grown men and women, would come to visit. They knew they would find loving hearts in the red brick house near the church in Utena."
The hard, strenuous, restless work did not wear the sisters Juozapėlė and Zuzana down, but it was time to say goodbye to their lovely children and their favourite work and retire.
At the same time, the other Sisters also left the Jasoniai Children's Home. They all returned to Utena and, not without God's help, bought a house on Bažnyčios Street for a small price. The diligent workers of the Lord could not remain without work.
Sister Juozapa began to decorate the altars with flowers, which were grown on a small plot of land by Sister Stefutė and the other sisters. The faithful women of the area also brought flowers from their gardens. Sister Juozapėlė did this work for 30 years. Now, many would ask, what was the salary? None. It was not accepted for me to be paid for this kind of work for the church.
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem website):
Aleksandr (Aleksiukas) Shinder
Juozapa Kibelaitė at the bottom, Stefanija Eigelytė at the top
Children in the washroom
Aleksandr (Aleksiukas) Shinder