rescuers of jews

Vanagaitė-Petraitienė Stefanija


The war divided the residents of Vilnius into two parts – those who lived in the city and those who were deprived of the right to walk on the pavement and after a hard work's day, dragging themselves along, would return to the ghetto. For a young man it was difficult to understand why your peers at a gymnasium suddenly became different, why you could no longer meet them like before, to stroll along the Vilnelė River in free time or to see a new film together.
During the war years, Adolfas Vanagas and his sisters lived in Vilnius, Pylimo St. 24. The flat was on the first floor, while the German officers occupied the ground floor. Having found out that her fellow-students from the gymnasium, Rachilė Goldšteinaitė and Mirjam Zyvaitė, were locked in the ghetto, Stasė Vanagaitė started looking for ways to contact them. Rachilė Goldšteinaitė's father was a Rabbi in Ukrnergė, while Mirjam came to Vilnius from Švėkšna. Stasė asked a stranger woman to find the girls in the ghetto and tell them who was waiting for them in Pylirno Street.
At that time Stefanija Vanagaitė worked in the Officers' Club and received bread-rationing cards. Nobody lived too well in wartime, but the family of Vanagai considered it their sacred duty to help the starving. In the morning, the youngest sister Janina would sit at the window overlooking the yard and wait for the girls from the ghetto. She would help her elder sisters to take bread out and hand it to the girls. In this way Rachilė and Mirjam visited the Vanagai home for half a year. Later they succeeded in escaping the ghetto and the contact broke.
Mrs. Stasė Vanagaitė-Petersonienė at present lives in Chicago and heads the Pedagogical Institute of Lithuanian Studies. Her belles-lettres were publicized in American periodicals, she also published a collection of scenes from the life of Lithuanian students “Nulaužta šaka” (“A Torn Off Branch”).

From Hands Bringing Life and Bread, Volume 1,
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. Vilnius, 1997