The Blichert family
Story of Rescue - The Blichert family
Antoni Blichert and his wife Jadwiga lived in Kowno where he worked as an installation electrician. Abrasza Rezer and his wife Fani (née Lewin) and their two children – Bella and Oskar – lived there as well. Rezer owned an insurance company. In 1933, Fani won a beauty contest and was awarded the Miss Lithuania title.
In the autumn of 1941, the Rezers found themselves in the Slobodka district of the Kowno ghetto. In January 1942, Fani gave birth to another daughter, Ella. The Rezers decided to try and save their youngest child.
In 1944, Jadwiga Blichert agreed to help them save her: “We discussed this and my wife decided to do it, even though we knew that the punishment if we are caught would be death”, Antoni Blichert wrote in 1985. He also recalled: “[...] when the child’s mother came to see my wife again, they decided on what was to be done”.
Fani was to bring the child, fast asleep and hidden in a suitcase, to the rubber production plant called “Ikarus” where she worked. When Jadwiga arrived at the agreed-upon spot, she was terrified to learn that the child was already awake, the effect of the sleep-inducing medication given to her having worn off. Jadwiga took the child in her hands then and carried her to her house.
The Blicherts had no children of their own and they feared that the girl’s presence could make their neighbours suspicious. Consequently, Ella was sent to Jadwiga’s sisters – Stanisława Bańkowska and Władysława Bańkowska– who lived in a village located far away from Kowno. The two sisters took care of the girl and named her Halina.
After the coming of the Red Army in August 1944, Antoni learned that Ella’s parents and siblings had died. He decided to officially adopt the girl as Halina Blichert. She was baptised. She stayed with the two sisters for some more time and then they all moved to Poland and settled in Czernica in Wrocławski Poviat. Antoni also moved to Poland to live in Wrocław. In 1946 his wife Jadwiga died due to labour complications. In 1950, Antoni married his sister-in-law Stanisława and they reared Halina (who started to use the name Helena later on in her life) together and had two children of their own: Tadeusz and Barbara. In his statement, Antoni wrote: “Our help spanned 13 years and [Helena] was raised as a child of our own and got everything she needed from us from the time when she was 2 and until she was 15”.
Helena learned about her background in 1957 in Wrocław when the son of Szaja and Jadzia Maltz, with whom she attended one school, became interested in her. The Blicherts consented to the Maltz family leaving Poland with Helena, acting as her legal guardians. The girl went to Israel in 1965. Initially, she lived in a kibbutz and then she started studying at the Tel Aviv University.
Her history was described in an article published by Israeli press. The article was re-printed by Forward, an American daily paper. Her mother’s brothers who lived in America, –Joel Lewin and Misza (Morris) Lewin, recognised their niece and contacted Helena. Invited by them, she went to the USA in 1967.
Joel Lewin had lived there since 1947. His two-year-old son Gideon (1941–1943). was killed in the Kowel ghetto.
Helena maintained close correspondence relations with the Blicherts. In 1985, in her statement for Yad Vashem, Helena expressed her gratitude towards the Blicherts for “saving my life and for the good care and upbringing you have given me” and,
in 1987, the Yad Vashem Institute awarded the Righteous Among the Nations title to Antoni Blichert, his wife Jadwiga, her sisters Stanisława Bańkowska-Blichert and Władysława Bańkowska.