Petrauskienė (Žalinkevičaitė) Elena
*1900 - 1986
*Recognized in 1999
Petrauskienė (Žalinkevičaitė) Elena
About the rescuer and the rescue story
In 1941 after the Nazis occupied Lithuania, Daniel Pomeranz was imprisoned in the Kaunas ghetto together with his expectant wife Riva. In the ghetto without any medical help, their daughter Suzi (later Danutė) was soon born in the basement. Actions were held regularly in the Kaunas ghetto, so the parents realized that the little girl needed to be saved somehow, by taking her outside the ghetto.
Riva Zolkaitė knew that the famous opera singer Kipras Petrauskas and his family lived in Kaunas. His wife at the time, well-known theater actress Elena Žalinkevičaitė-Petrauskienė, was friends with Riva's sister Sonia Karlinskiene from Kretinga, they spent summers together in Palanga. Suzi's mother called E. Žalinkevičaitė-Petrauskienė on the phone and pretended to be her sister Sonia, inviting the actress to a meeting in the Old Town of Kaunas. Later, R. Pomeranz explained the reason for this forced deception - she asked to save her blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl, who did not look like a Jewish girl at all.
E. Žalinkevičaitė-Petrauskienė agreed without hesitation.
"My parents were well-known in Kaunas, so one can only imagine how risky it was, because the Jewish child they adopted was threatened with death. But humanity was more important to them", said the Petrauskas' daughter Aušra, who always called Danute her sister.
Balys Simanavičius (1907-1984), who worked as the director of the fur factory "Lapė" and had permission to visit the ghetto, undertook to take the one-and-a-half-year-old girl out of the ghetto.
“I was the never-crying ghetto baby. When my parents found out that the family of Kipras Petrauskas’ agreed to take me in, they found a doctor in the ghetto who injected me with sleeping pills. The dose of medicine was so high that everyone thought - I will either fall asleep or die. I fell asleep, but I kept waking up with the feeling that I was about to break up with my parents. They put me in a sack of potatoes and carried me out of the ghetto. It was at that moment when the German officer asked, 'Who is here?', than I woke up and began to scream. B. Simanavičius, who was carrying me, replied that there was a "little pig" in the bag. Maybe that officer suspected something, but he let him leave", says D. Pomeranz in the film.
B. Simanavičius brought the girl to the Petrauskas’ house, and when asked what the girl's name was, he said Danutė. In order to hide it from prying eyes, the Petrauskas’ soon took the girl to the family estate near Telšiai, after which they moved to Palanga. As the front approached, Petrauskienė and her children moved to the West and stayed there until 1948. Kipras Petrauskas returned home after the war, and his wife and children remained in Germany, living in a refugee camp near Stuttgart.
"While we were in Germany, we received letters from my father urging us not to be afraid to return to Lithuania," said A. Petrauskaitė. -In 1948, my mother decided to take this step together with me and Danute. My mother's parents, son Leon and daughter Guoda, left for Australia. Mom hesitated for a long time. And not for nothing - only a few families were released from the train that brought us from Berlin to Vilnius - others went straight to Siberia. Later I heard that all the theaters were included in the list of exiles, but the government of that time did not decide to take them all away. In addition, it was convenient for the Soviet authorities that the families of famous people returned from emigration to Lithuania", said A. Petrauskaitė.
Danutė's father D. Pomeranz in 1942 was taken from the ghetto to the Dachau concentration camp, where, after going through all its hell, in 1945 received liberation. In the camp, someone gave him a violin, which helped him survive. He had no idea that E. Petrauskienė with her children and his daughter Danute was also staying not far from the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
One day, on Kęstutis Street in Kaunas, a small, poor-looking, bedraggled man knocked on the apartment where Riva Pomeranz lived with her sister's daughter Rūta. It was her husband Daniel who returned from Germany on foot. Not knowing anything about the fate of their daughter Danutė, in 1946 they adopted a girl, Ruth, who became a Pomeranz.
In 1948 K. Petrauskas, who came to their house in the summer, announced that his wife had arrived, along with Pomeranz’s daughter Danute, and that they would soon return from Germany. The process of getting used to a new family was not easy for Danute, the girl lived with her parents, but often visited her rescuers as well. She called both the mother who gave birth to her and the mother who saved her “mother”. E. Petrauskienė continued to take care of the two girls of the Pomeranz’ family: Danutė and Rūta, who spent a lot of time in her family and were always welcome.
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem web page):
Dana Pomeranz Mazurkevich
Elena and Kipras with children
Elena with Aušra by her side and Dana in white dress
Elena with Danutė
Dana on the left, Aušra on the right