Ruzgytė – Bukauskienė Meilė Onutė
* 1927 – 1988
* Recognized in 2010
Ruzgytė – Bukauskienė Meilė Onutė
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Leokadija Zarembaitė, a well-educated girl who valued etiquette and good manners, married Karolis Ruzgys, a volunteer who had graduated from the teachers' seminary. The family had three children - Meilė Onutė (b. 1927), Eglė Marytė (b. 1928) and Aurimas Kazimieras (b. 1930). Karolis worked as a school headmaster and teacher in Žvangučiai village and Želva. The family lived a beautiful and harmonious life, but unfortunately, in 1932 a tragedy happened - Karolis' appendix ruptured and he died.
Leokadija was left alone with her three children - the eldest was five at the time and the youngest two. The woman was struggling to make ends meet, but managed to feed her children and send them to school. Leokadija owned a farm, which she shared with a sharecropper. She was also a very careful and artistic seamstress, so she contributed from her own stitches. In addition, Leokadija had help from her sister and brother (her brother Juozas Zaremba was very talented - he built a mill and a brickyard himself. In 1949 he was exiled to Siberia, where he also managed to build a mill).
When the Germans occupied Lithuania and started persecuting Jews, the Katz family knocked on the door of Leokadija Ruzgienė's house. Leokadija knew Israel and Berta Kac - they had a shop in Giedraitis, where she used to shop and sell her own sewing, and their daughter Leah Mira was in contact with Leokadija's daughters.
At first Leokadija said she was afraid for her children - her eldest daughter was only 14 years old at the time. However, Leokadija agreed to host them for a few days. However, when the Katz got ready to leave, Leokadija's children started crying, saying that they would all perish. Then Leokadija Ruzgienė took the risky step of offering to let all the members of the Katz family stay. Almost all the time, they were hiding in the chamber or in the cellar under the chamber. Unfortunately, rumours spread in the town that Jews were being hidden in the Ruzgys' house. Leokadija knew about this, but realising that she was the only hope for the condemned, she said, "Where will I drive them out... what will be will be".
As Leokadija Ruzgiene's son Aurimas Ruzgys and Leah Mira Kacaitė, who escaped, testify, after three years of hiding in Giedraičiai, the local police came from Giedraičiai, searched the place, found the Jews in hiding, arrested them, and deported them, together with Leokadija Ruzgiene, first to the detention centre in Giedraičiai, and then to the Ukmergė prison. Leokadija Ruzgienė stayed in Ukmergė prison for six months, until the front approached Ukmergė.
The children lived alone in the house during this time, both girls sewed, and Leokadija's brother Juozas took care of them as much as he could. As the front approached, the prison guards let the prisoners out of the prison. After leaving the prison, Leokadija Ruzgienė and the Katz family first went to Vaitkuškis, to Leokadija's relatives. When the front line passed, all the rescued Jews returned with Leokadija Ruzgienė to her house in the village of Dudėnai.
The Katz family decided to leave Lithuania. Leokadija did not want to live alone with her children in a farmhouse - it was not safe for a woman with three children after the war. The Katz family left Leokadija the half of their house, which Leokadija and her children moved into in 1946. After a while, the children moved out, either to start families or to go to school. Leokadija then moved to Kaunas, where she lived with her sister until she died.
Meilė Onutė graduated in library science. She got a job at the Vilnius Book Palace. She married and had two children. The family with the children had no place to live in Vilnius, so they returned to Giedraičiai. Here Meilė raised her children and worked - she changed many jobs during her life. Meilė Onutė's niece Ida remembers Meilė as very intelligent and knowledgeable, and always a pleasure to talk to.
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem web page):
Leah Mira Katz
Meilė Onutė, Leokadija, Eglė Marytė. 1957
Aurimas Kazimieras and Eglė Marytė. 2010
Berta and Israel Katz (on the right) with their daughter Leah Mira, her husband and children. USA, 1958