1916 - 1945
PEOPLE'S COMMISSARIAT FOR
INTERNAL AFFAIRS IN 1945
Buried in Alkiškiai cemetery,
Akmenė district, Lithuania
56, 26 51 29 (š. pl.)
22, 85 08 03 (r. ilg.)
MEMORY TABLE NEXT TO THE PLACE THERE VAŠKYS' FAMILY WAS SHOOT DOWN AND HOUSE WAS BURNT DOWN BY INVADERS
Andrejus Kalendra was born in Lithuania in 1884. He spent his youth in Riga, Latvia, where he received his education and was exposed to Leo Tolstoy’s ideals – to which he adhered until his last day. Upon his return to Lithuania, Andrejus and his wife Monika settled in an isolated farm in the vicinity of the town of Papilė, northwest of Šiauliai. Andrejus led an ascetic life, did not eat meat and never shaved his beard; because of his beard he was sometimes mistaken for a Jew. On the eve of the war the Kalendras had five daughters, aged 9 to 22.
Among Andrejus’s good acquaintance was Isaak Gordimer, a hardware store owner from Papilė, with whom Andrejus liked to talk whenever he would come to town. At the end of the 1930’s, Gordimer moved to Šiauliai and the two lost touch for some time.
With the beginning of the German occupation, Isaak Gordimer, his wife Sonia and their sons Sholom and Jona found themselves in the Šiaulai ghetto. In the summer of 1943 Isaak succeeded in contacting Andrejus, and together they worked out an escape plan. The escape was carried out right after the so-called “Children Action” that took place on November 5, 1943. Upon Andrejus’s request, his friend Antanas Plekavičius came to the pre-determined location outside the ghetto and waited for the Gordimers. After three days his patience was rewarded: Sonia Gordimer brought her six-year-old son Sholom. Antanas hid the boy inside his cart and headed out of the heavily guarded city to the Kalendras’ farm. After a few days he went back and picked up the rest. Isaak, Sonia and three-year-old Jona spent several very stressful hours lying on the bottom of the cart, covered by planks and rags, until they reached Marijona and Steponas Garbačiauskas’ farm. The hosts and their five children, Andrejus’s distant relatives, were ready to risk their lives for the sake of the Jewish family.
After three weeks the Jewish refugees moved to Klara and Augustas Vaškys, a young couple living in the village of Viliočiai, Akmenė County. Zelma Vaškytė, Augustas’s sister, lived nearby. She offered to take Jona under her care: her little house was somewhat distant from the other houses in the village and she received no visitors, so the child had no need to hide. As a precaution Zelma nevertheless came up with a story about Jona’s Latvian background and gave him another name. Isaak and Sonia Gordimer stayed with Klara and Augustas. They could not move around freely but still used every occasion to help their benefactors who had to care for their newborn.
At the beginning of 1944 Isaak and Sonia moved to the village of Sakyna where they were welcomed by another Lithuanian family, Joana and Antanas Plekavičius. Andrejus Kalendra coordinated their relocation. At the same time his own family was hiding not only Sholom Gordimer, but also Etta Trusfus (Kolodnaya), a teacher from Šiauliai, and her young nephew. Missing their children, the Gordimers attempted one time to take little Jona from Zelma, but the boy refused to leave his “new mother”. The Gordimers returned to the Plekavičiuses alone, taking comfort in knowing that Jona was apparently happy at Zelma’s.
In October 1944 the area was liberated from the Nazis by the Soviet troops. Less than a year later the survivors left their rescuers and started their journey to the West. In 1947 they settled in the United States.
The fate of Klara and Augustas Vaškys after the war was tragic: they were shot down by Russian soldiers on the doorstep of their own house, as punishment for Augustas’ refusal to enlist in the army. Their one-year-old son Valdys was taken out of the house in his pram and the house was burned down. Zelma took Valdys and raised him until she herself was arrested and spent 10 years in Siberian settlements. That same year Andrejus Kalendra was arrested – his life style and his refusal to join a kolkhoz took their toll. Andrejus died in exile a year later; his wife and daughters were able to return to Lithuania only in 1962. Monika passed away shortly afterwards. After the Kalendras’ arrest, the Garbačiauskases left their house and went into hiding for some time for fear of exile. The Plekavičiuses managed to avoid being deported.
In the mid 1990s George (Jona) Gordimer, by then the only living member of the rescued family, re-established contacts with his rescuers and their families, and went back to visit the places of his war-time childhood.
More information will be available soon
George (Jona) Gordimer
Seymour (Šolomas) Gordimer
GORDIMER FAMILY. USA, AFTER WAR
INFORMATION COLLECTED FROM: