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Starkienė Elena

*Recognized in 2012

Rokantiškės cemetery, Vilnius

Starkienė Elena

54.704845 25.361637

About the rescuer and the rescue story

Elena Repčytė was born in Medikonis, Panevėžys County. Elena's parents were patriotic and professed true Christian values. Education and knowledge was one of the family's priorities, so all the Repčys' children, including their daughters, were educated and completed their studies not only in Lithuania but also abroad. Elena's brother was a member of the troops fighting against the Bolsheviks. Elena studied at an institute for noble ladies, also studied law at the University of Lithuania, and continued her studies in Belgium from 1925-28. After returning from Belgium, Elena's brother helped her set up a school in Vabalninkai, where Elena taught French and etiquette to the children of the area. In Vabalninkai Elena met her future husband Antanas, who was working as a doctor in Vabalninkai at the time. In 1931, the first child was born in the Starkus family - a son, Kęstutis, and in 1935, a daughter, Elena - Valerija.

Elena was not only a strong patriot with Christian values, but also a true intellectual. For her part, she was determined to educate Lithuania. She wrote extensively in the pre-war press about etiquette, and when she married a doctor, she quoted him in her articles on hygiene and sanitary topics. She also published several recipe books. In 1933-36, she was editor-in-chief of the magazine "Moteris".

In 1942, an acquaintance knocked on the door of the Starkus family and asked them to hide Olga Gurvich, a former student of Antanas's streaming lectures, in their house. Antanas, who had to make a sudden decision, replied that the family must help. The Starkus family lived in an apartment block and shared a staircase with a Gestapo officer. Antanas and Elena gave Olga a room and did not force her to go into hiding - in the evenings she even went for a walk. However, the family had a plan of action in case of danger - the children were taught to run into the house before guests entered and warn Olga, and in case of a search, Olga had to run to wash her head to hide her dark, luxuriant hair so that she could be presented as a housemaid. Moreover, the sisters Viktorija and Elena Jacinavičiūtė, who lived in the basement of the same apartment block, rescued a Jewish girl, Ada Feldstein. Ada spent the nights at the Jacinavičiūtes' and the days at the Starkus and Olga's.

In 1943, Antanas was arrested by the Gestapo and imprisoned in Stutthof concentration camp. Elena and her children were left alone. After the liberation of Stutthof, Elena's husband was unable to return to Lithuania, but he gave Elena the news that he was alive: before he was taken to Stutthof, Antanas managed to take a small glass sculpture from his home, which he kept throughout his imprisonment in Stutthof, and when he arrived in Sweden, he gave it to Elena through a messenger. He moved from Sweden to the United States in 1947 because he could not return to Lithuania. While in the USA, he made contact with his family in Lithuania through the Red Cross.

After the war, Elena ran a diet canteen in Kaunas. In addition to being able to keep the canteen running smoothly and to provide quality and tasty food, Elena fed Jews and people returning from Siberia in a separate room in the canteen. Before the census took place, a Jew warned Elena that she should tell them that her family had less land than they actually had. Elena did so, and avoided Siberia. The spare room in Elena's house was always occupied by seminarians or people who had recently returned from Siberia. To the children's grumbling that there were always strangers in the house, Elena replied that it was necessary to help those who needed help, who had it harder or who had less.

Elena retired after she finished running the canteen. In 1973, Elena went to visit Antanas in America. Despite his career in the USA, Antanas was always looking for ways to return to Lithuania. Finally he succeeded - Vilnius University invited Antanas to teach. Unfortunately, Antanas died in the USA the same year. Elena brought her husband's urn back to Lithuania.

Rescued persons (Yad Vashem webpage):

Olga Gurvich

Information collected using:

Memories of Gabrielė, granddaughter of Antanas and Elena

54.704845 25.361637

Elena at Antanas' USA 1973

The Starkus family. 1940

Antanas and Elena reunited after 30 years of separation. 1973

Olga Gurvich

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