*1890 – 1967
*Recognized in 2011
Panemunė cemetery, Kaunas, Lithuania
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Jonas Vansovičius (b. 1881) lived in the town of Raseiniai with his wife, Natalija, and their daughter, Janina. Jonas was an accountant in the accounting department of the municipality, and his colleague in the department was Nikolajus Vaškevičius, a Byelorussian who had converted to Judaism so that he could marry his Jewish wife, Tatiana. Over the years, Jonas and Natalija had become friends with Nikolajus and Tatiana. When the Germans occupied Raseiniai on June 24, 1941, they forced the Jews to live in a particular area in the town. During the next two months, various murderous Aktionen (mass executions) were carried out, and on August 29, 1941, the last of Raseiniai’s Jews were executed.
Sofia (Sonia) Vaškevičiute was Tatiana and Nikolajus’s only daughter. At some point Nikolajus approached his friend Jonas Vansovičius and appealed to him to save his daughter; Jonas and Natalija agreed. They hid her in their home until Jonas was able to obtain an identity card for Sonia stating that she was a Lithuanian child. This was conditional on her leaving Raseiniai because many in the town knew her. (Her grandfather had been on the city council until the German occupation.)
To keep their friends’ daughter safe, Jonas and Natalija decided that Janina, their 21-year-old daughter, would move to Kuršėnai, 100 kilometers north of Raseiniai, and take 13-year-old Sonia with her.
Sending their only daughter to a distant city to live with and be responsible for a younger girl—a Jewish girl, no less, when Jews were being mercilessly hunted and killed, and offering them any help was punishable by death—was a courageous, selfless act on their part. Janina and Sonia lived in a rented room, and Janina worked in an office where they prepared food ration cards, thus supporting both of them. Sonia could live in the open, as no one knew her in Kuršėnai. After the liberation Janina and Sonia returned to Raseiniai to the Vansovičius home. Sonia did not find any surviving family members and remained with her rescuers. In 1957 Sonia married Simon Beiman of Jurbarkas, and they eventually moved to Vilnius, where they had two children, a boy and a girl. The Beimans considered Janina a member of the family, and they shared family celebrations and holiday visits for many years. On June 14, 2011, Yad Vashem recognized Jonas Vansovičius, his wife, Natalija Vansovičienė, and their daughter, Janina Vansovičiūtė Grigaliūnienė, as Righteous Among the Nations.
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem web page):
Sofija (Sonia) Vaškevičiūtė Beiman
Janina Vansovičiūtė on the left, Sofija Vaškevičiūtė on the right
Jonas Vansovičius on the left, Nikolajus Vaškevičius on the right. They worked together in Raseiniai municipality
Jonas and Natalija Vansovičius