Lučiūnaitė - Martinkėnienė Elena
* 1926 – 2015
* recognized in 2010
Liepynės cemetery, Vilnius
Lučiūnaitė - Martinkėnienė Elena
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Elena Lučiūnaitė was one of the five children of Cezaris and Marija Lučiūnas. Cezaris Lučiūnas was a farmer. He lived with his family in Vievis. They had a 7-hectare-plot of land. Everybody in Vievis knew Cezaris. He was open to everyone. Therefore, people respected and trusted him. Even store workers trusted the children of Cezaris and allowed them to pay for the goods later. On Wednesdays, people who wanted to buy a horse in the market of Vievis would take it to Cezaris in order to hear his opinion, because people knew that Cezaris knows the most about horses. Cezaris acquired knowledge of horses during the World War I, when he and his brother were taken to Russia. Cezaris spent five years there and he probably became a veterinarian. After returning to Lithuania, Cezaris bought a stallion from Sweden. It was the first such animal in Lithuania. Everyone was fascinated by this stallion - one landowner offered Cezaris half of his manor for the stallion, the President Smetona had come to see the stallion with his own eyes, thieves tried twice to steal the stallion. But the horse would start neighing so loudly in the forest that no theft did succeed. The horse contributed to the construction of Vievis church - it was so strong that builders used the stallion to pull building materials. There were a lot of diplomas at home, and the family would receive money for breeding, because the offspring of this horse were considered pure-bred. After the death of his wife Monika in 1938, Cezaris became widower with five children – Antanas, Jonas, Elena, Mikalina and the youngest Veronika, who was three years old. The remains of his wife were laid out in the church, and its bells rang during the entire funeral procession. At the age of 12, Elena became a mother to little Veronika. Even the village children used to call Elena Veronika's mother among themselves. Elena loved to sew and knit, and had a strong sense of diligence. Elena made all Veronika's clothes. Moreover, Veronika remembers a giant doll from her childhood, which Elena had also made for her.
Everything changed when the war started - the family had even nothing to eat. The daughter Mikalina remembers cooking of soup in winter, and in the summer, they ate apples growing in the garden. He needed to provide for a large family and, therefore, Cezaris, with his older sons Antanas and Jonas, started working as a carrier in a tar (according to other sources, in a resin and turpentine) factory - he used to transport barrels of tar. Jonas was 16 years old at the time. The factory belonged to Meir Koren, a Jew from Vievis. In 1940, the Soviets nationalized the factory of Meir, and Meir himself stayed in the factory, where he worked as a laborer. Cezaris was friends with Meir and the children of Cezaris since their young age communicated with the Jewish children who lived in Vievis. Everyone knew each other. Moishe and Benjamin, the sons of Meir, were peers and friends with Jonas and Antanas. During the war, Cezaris hid at home the Russian prisoner Andriuša for a couple of months. The men would leave somewhere at night, but the children did not know where exactly. During the war, Cezaris would not only let beggars in to his home, but he also allowed them stay on the stove for the night so that they could warm up. Cezaris shared the only food he had at the time - frozen potatoes with mothers and children, who came from Vilnius to Vievis looking for food.
When the war started, the Gestapo has set up its abode on the same street, a few houses away from Cezaris’ house. Just a few days after the start of the war, all Jews of Vievis were surrounded and taken by carriages to Semeliškės. Among them was the family of Meir Koren except for Liuba, their 11-year-old daughter, whom Cesaris had already hidden at his place. Cezaris and other workers of the factory approached the management asking to let Meier out, at least temporarily. They explained that only Meier will be able to solve the technological problem that had arisen. Meier was let go a day before the ghetto massacre. During the massacre, the son Meier, his aunt and two other Jews were hiding in a pre-prepared hideout. The wife Meier and other Jews of the ghetto were killed. When the night came, the members of the Koren family, who were hiding in the hideout, came through the woods to Vievis to Cezaris’ house. Here they found their father Meier and his 11-year-old daughter Liuba. Meier had an official work permit, and other members of the Koren family were hiding at the home of the Lučiūnas family, where they spent 8 months. Not only Cezaris Lučiūnas, the head of the Lučiūnas family, but also all his children helped the Jews to survive. Only in June 1942, when someone noticed them, the members of the Koren family were forced to change their hideout. At the end of the war, Cezaris sensed impending disaster and took all five children to Smeliškės. When they were retreating, the Germans burned the house of Cezaris because Russian soldiers were staying there. When the family returned to Vievis, their neighbour allowed them to stay in the vacant house. But the family was left with nothing because everything had burned. Cezaris‘ health was strongly affected by all the troubles and turmoil. He fell ill and died at the age of 65 after spending a couple of months bedridden.
Five children were orphaned after the death of their father. The children did the best they could. The older ones took care of the younger ones. Some stayed in Vievis, others left. In 1948 Elena left for Vilnius. In 1949 she married Klemensas Martinkėnas. In 1950 Veronika came to Vilnius to stay with Elena after finishing her studies in Vievis. Elena and Klemensas had two children. Before the children were born, Elena worked in a suitcase factory. After the children were born, she was a housewife and when they were grown up she got a job in Sparta. The five of them - Elena, Klemensas, their two children and Veronika - lived in a one-room flat in Žvėrynas. Veronika graduated as a midwife and was assigned to Šiauliai. When her contract in Šiauliai ended, she moved back to Vilnius to stay with Elena until she was settled and could move out on her own. When Elena and Klemensas' children grew up, they bought a small house.
Veronika calls Elena a wonderful person. She says that Elena was her mother, sister and best friend. Whether in trouble or in joy, Elena was always there for Veronika.
Marija ir Cezaris Lučiūnas. Vievis (around 1928)