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Yad Vashem to Honor Couple from Lithuania as Righteous Among the Nations Tomorrow

12 April 2011

On Wednesday, April 13, 2011, Yad Vashem will hold a ceremony posthumously honoring the late Elena Laurinaviciene and her children Bronislovas and Pranas as Righteous Among the Nations. Ms. Aldona Tomkeviciene, granddaughter and daughter of the Righteous will receive the medal on behalf of her grandmother, father and uncle. The ceremony will take place in the presence of H.E. Darius Degutis, Ambassador of Lithuania in Israel, and friends of the family. A memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance will be held at 10:00 followed by the awarding the medal and certificate in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem. The events will take place in Russian and English.

The event is open to the press, in coordination with the Media Relations dept. 02 644 3410.

The Rescue Story

On June 22, 1941, the German Army invaded the Soviet Union in “Operation Barbarossa” and occupied Lithuania. Immediately after the invasion, they began implementing the “Final Solution,” with the mass murder of the Jews by the “Einsatzgruppen” who were assisted by local gangs. Leiba and Ida Tatz and their children Zvika and Feige lived in Raseiniai, Lithuania. When the town was occupied on 23 June, they were forced to move to Girkanlis where Leiba's father Shmuel and other family members were residing. Believing that the Jewish men alone would be targeted, Leiba and his brother Joseph went into hiding.

On August 21, the Jews of Girkanlis were executed, among them, Leiba’s wife Ida, their children Zvika and Feige, his father Shmuel and 40 other members of his family. Leiba remained in hiding, staying with different Lithuanian families. However, Elena Laurinaviciene, a young widow who lived with her sons Bronislavas and Pranas in the village of Naukaimis, stood out among them all. Two of Leiba’s cousins, Zisl and Itzhak Blacher, and another woman Mina Kvedanaite Ran, also hid in Elena’s house. In addition, she also sheltered communists. During the day, they hid in the house and when they heard the dog barking in the yard, they would go down to the cellar to hide. Elena devotedly brought food to the people hiding in their home and took care of all their needs - even taking their shoes to be mended in town. Since it was too dangerous to stay in one place for a long time, those in hiding would occasionally change the place of their shelter, with Elena's sons Bronislovas and Pranas making sure there were no Germans in the vicinity and sometimes even accompanying them to other hideouts.

After liberation, Leiba Tatz kept in contact with Elena, helping and supporting her and her family during the hard post-war period. Her son Pranas was killed in 1949 by Russian soldiers and her other son was exiled to Siberia. Elena passed away in 1979. Her son Bronislovas lives in Lithuania.

For more information about the Righteous Among the Nations Program: