The Butkiewicz family
Story of Rescue - The Butkiewicz family
Józef Butkiewicz was born in 1921 in the former Lithuanian Republic. He lived in Podubiś, Średniki Gmina, Kowno Poviat. In May 1943, his family lost its home and most of its property – they were evicted from their farm by the Germans simply for being Polish. Józef went to Teresa Daniłowicz, his cousin (who then became his mother-in-law) residing in Lelerwiszki, Czekiszki Gmina, Kowno Poviat.
In November 1943, after dark, two strangers came to the house of Teresa Daniłowicz and asked for shelter. It turned out that they were Szlomo and Tamara Goldstein who had run away from the Kowno ghetto. The married couple initially hid at the former farmstead of Fendberg, a Jewish friend of the family.
Adolf, Teresa’s husband, would not consent to harbouring any fugitives at first, thinking that it was too dangerous. The lives of all members of the family – himself, his wife, two daughters, Jadwiga and Janina, and his cousin Józef Butkiewicz – would be endangered. What is more, the farm of the Daniłowicz family was quite large (30 hectares) and located next to a major road, with no trees in their farmyard. Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators would often use that road so it would be possible for the fugitives to be discovered at any time.
However, other members of the family – Józef Butkiewicz, Teresa, and her two daughters – could not turn a blind eye to the sight of chilled and hungry people. “... We could not have denied their request...”, Józef Butkiewicz recalls.They fed them and proposed that they spend the night in the attic of the stable. The unexpected guests were supposed to leave the next night and look for a safer hiding place for themselves. It was not so. Józef, Teresa, Jadwiga, and Janina decided to risk their lives for two strangers. They allowed them to stay in the stable for 9 months, right until the time when the Germans left in August 1944.
Their help was selfless and stemmed from purely humanitarian considerations. Teresa’s religious beliefs also played a part - she was a Catholic and felt obliged to help others. No remuneration was requested from the refugees. They received food and all other necessary means of sustenance.
After the war, Szlomo and Tamara settled in Kowno and then moved to the USA. The Yad Vashem Institute awarded the titles of Righteous Among the Nations to Józef Butkiewicz, Teresa Daniłowicz, and her daughters Jadwiga and Janina in 1992.
- Gutman Israel red. nacz., Księga Sprawiedliwych wśród Narodów Świata, Ratujący Żydów podczas Holocaustu, Kraków 2009
- Archiwum Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego, Dział odznaczeń Yad Vashem. Dokumentacja sprawy Józefa Butkiewicza, 349/24/1130