* 1892 01 02 - 1949 12 14
* recognized in 1996
About the rescuer and the rescue story
SISTER LEONARA KASIULYTĖ ABOUT MARIJA RUSTEIKAITĖ:
A lot has been known about the nun Marija Rusteikaitė (1892-1949) since the Vatican Congregation sent a document (Prot. N. 2971-1/11) to which says that she was declared a Servant of God for her heroic virtues, because she sacrificed herself to God and to people. 2011 was a year of joy and blessing for the sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence and for all people, because the monastery has an intercessor in heaven. This means that the sisters of the monastery can start the beatification case, that is, bring her to the altar of the Church. It is not easy, but it is a sacred task to continue to collect historical, biographical, and spiritual data about her.
The Urbonian University has been established in Rome to examine the canonization cases of future canonized saints. There, one studies correctly, purposefully, and thoroughly how to lead and investigate the cases of the blessed and the saints. A commission is dedicated to exam the case of the nun Servant of God Mother Maria Rusteikaitė, which must examine her entire life story according to the three directions of the Church's teaching: theological, historical and canonical.
However, what was she like as a person, what were her personality traits? I got to meet a lot of people who knew her, lived with her, and worked with her. She is a descendant of the old family of landowners Rusteika, born in Kybartčiai, in the estate, whose chapel and its fragments are still preserved today, which are located near Šiauliai. She is the third of nine children. She studied at the Šiauliai high school with the children of Jews, advocates, and lawyers. Also, her parents' estate had a constant movement of people from different nations with different business. She was used to the interaction and reception of people.
She strengthened her spiritual and religious traits as a teenager, when she joined the Franciscan Tertiaries in Šiauliai, and joined the group of future nuns. Both organizations are strongly Catholic and religious. All this formed her righteous conscience. It is not to do anything bad to anyone, and if it happens, it will separate and fall like chaff from the grain.
Since her parents were landowners, her family spoke Polish, as it was customary to speak that language in the estates at that time. But Maria almost never claimed or was proud of her social status.
Around 1911, she went to St. Petersburg to study medicine. After completing her medical studies, she came to Panevėžys to carry out her mission of compassionate works. She joined the secular organization of St. Vincent Paul, established the Hospital of Divine Providence on the spot, gathered a group of dedicated sisters to help her care for the poor, oppressed, dying and sick.
Since 1925 she saved people's souls and bodies, giving all of herself where people's misery and suffering were greatest. She treated and cared for all sick Lithuanians, Jews, Poles, and Russians. In Panevėžys, she invited priests to the hospital chapel she had founded to pray, listen to confessions, administer the sacraments of the Church, and offer Holy Mass. She grieved a lot when she had to bury young people and orphaned children who died of typhus, tuberculosis, and other diseases in the old cemetery of the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Panevėžys. She urged the sisters and believers under her care to be in the Presence of God, which means realizing that God is in the mind, soul, and heart of people. He is not anywhere else, but in us, because He not only sees and hears us, but knows our most secret thoughts. It was good for the wards when she came to them with a white robe and a bright transparent soul. One old woman told me that when she, as a child, was lying in her hospital because of rickets, she saw Rusteikaitė in her ward and cried out: "Oh, oh... our dear Mother, how I love you! Then she hugged me, kissed me, and patted my head"
Marija Rusteikaitė had many religious slogans and sighs in her mind, which were testified to us by the old people who lived in Vaiguva, because she also established a shelter for children and the elderly there and carried out the same compassionate works as in Panevėžys. When she saw people who were upset, she used to tell them: "Put all your worries or entrust to the hearts of Mary and Jesus. It is the safest there. But most importantly, be instruments of God's love for people, help them as much as you can, in all ways: with advice, a kind word or a warm look, visiting neighbors and relatives, food, clothing, prayer, medicine."
In the years 1937-1946, she took care of the people of Vaiguva area, she spent the horrors of World War II there, she saw and heard the sufferings and cries of the Jewish people, and from there she had to retreat to Vilnius, where it was safer and there were more people, because she herself was threatened with exile to Siberia and mortal danger to her life.
The local Vaiguva people said that they knew about Marija Rusteikaitė, who saved Jews from the sufferings of the ghetto, that she was hiding 15 Jewish people in her shelter. They said that she took great risks in hiding, even years after the ghetto, she felt fear and insecurity because she suspected that any unsafe word could get her shot on the spot. She lovingly cared for all Jewish children and adults, fed them, the children were dressed in the same clothes as the Lithuanian orphans. She did not look at nationality or race, before God people were the same with an immortal soul, only perhaps more righteous.
She was in mortal danger for her cousin, Steponas Rusteika, who was famous in Independent Lithuania because he worked as the Minister of Internal Affairs in the Tübel government. He was shot when the war started. Also, for brother Henrikas, a Lithuanian volunteer, killed in Siberian prison, for brothers Kazimieras, Vladas and sister Zita, exiles. In Vilnius, she was sheltered for a while by Jewish people whom she saved before, then for a while she was sheltered in the underground room of the monastery of St. Michael the Archangel Church, where the Church Heritage Museum is now located.
Marija Rusteikaitė had to hide from the persecution of the Bolshevik authorities in Vilnius, she lived in tension and did not know how the occupation would end. Her health deteriorated. Returning from the Church of the Holy Spirit after Holy Mass, after praying for all the people she cared about and receiving the Blessed Sacrament in the street, she suddenly collapsed and died soon after, at the age of 57.
However, we have not forgotten her warmth, spirit, and dedication to people. She remained alive in the memory of the nuns, at her grave, located in the cemetery of the Church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, believers experienced divine favors, peace of mind and consolation. If there had been more such people during the holocaust, significantly more lives would have been saved in Lithuania.
Now the sisters and believers pray to her, ask for favors, health, and healing, to give a miraculous sign and for her to be raised to the honor of the Altar.
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem web page):
Rusteikaite with a child
Rusteikaite's opened shelter in Vaiguva
Rusteikaite attending to wards
Eta Gavronskaya, her granddaughter Shlomit and her daughter Polina Fruman