Finding Our Mother’s Rescuers

By Rina Varejes Ohayon and Esther Varejes Grobman

It all began in 2011 during Sukkot (14 October) when we journeyed to Lithuania to walk in our ancestors’ footsteps – to connect with our roots. One of the goals of the trip was, of course, to visit the village of Jasiunai located 16 miles south of Vilnius. Jasiunai It was there that our mother had grown up during World War II. At that time the village had been in Poland and was known by its Polish name Jaszuny. Since our childhood we had heard Mom’s stories about the good man who had adopted her, about his family and the house houseOld in which they had lived. Naturally we wanted to search for this house, to find and to touch the place where Mom had played as a child, where she had lived in secret during the War.

On the day we arrived in Jasiunai the weather was cool; there were not many people on the streets. Dad told us to look for a yellow house. As we were searching for the house, a man was riding by on a bicycle. He was about 50 years old. We stopped him and asked whether he knew the location of the Kruminis home. Indeed, he answered, he would lead us to the house. He told us that Antoni Kruminis was remembered as a noble and kind man in the village. He had been the manager of the Jasiunai railroad station.

We parked our car. The house was no longer yellow. It was white and renovated. As we got out of the car we began to cry from overwhelming emotion. We stared at the house house, crying quietly, each of us in our own silent thoughts. . . . People began to gather around us, neighbors wondering and asking one another who these strangers were in their village.

From the house emerged a young man. He was thoroughly confused by our presence: Do we need help? he asked. Who are we? Why are we photographing the house? What do we want? Soon his mother came out and joined him. They explained to us that they had bought the house from Marek Kruminis-Lozowski, the grandson of Antoni Kruminis-Lozowski.

We explained to the young man, whose name was Miroslav Vdoviak, who we were and why we had sought out the house. Slowly the whole story spilled out . . . Little by little we found ourselves inside the house. Miroslav and his mother showed us all the changes they had made, explained to us the structural improvements as they led us throughout the house, into each individual room. They even showed us the sections of the house that had not yet been renovated. The staircase upstairs leading to the second floor was exactly as it had been when Mom had lived there. In our minds we pictured her sitting on the stairs as a little girl. We took many new photos; gently we touched every piece of furniture, trying to feel the memories of 70 years ago. Miroslav told us he had contact with the Kruminis family – with a nephew or a grandchild – but we were having difficulty communicating and were confused about the relationship. However, when we asked him if he would be so kind as to establish contact between us and the Kruminis family with whom he was in touch, he promised to do so. We left our details: name, address, telephone number and email address.

When we returned home to Israel, the telephone call came that changed our lives! Rina received the phone call from Marek Kruminis-Lozowski. That first conversation left Rina with the feeling that the Kruminis family had been waiting a lifetime to hear from us. We had finally found each other: We found our family in Poland, and they found theirs in Israel. It was a family relationship that had begun 70 years earlier with Antoni and Maria Kruminis and continues today with their grandson Marek and his family.

We invited Marek and his wife and son to visit us in our home and they did not hesitate to book tickets to Israel. They have given us a collection of rare old photos and documents from 1942 when our mother was a four-year-old child living in Jasiunai with the people who saved her life – the Kruminis-Lozowski family. We could never have dreamed to have such photos in our possession. There is still a mystery of how Rachel got to the Kruminis-Lozowski family.

It was a historic event for our family when Yad Vashem awarded to Marek, on behalf of his grandparents Antoni and Maria Kruminis-Lozowski, the medal for “Righteous Among the Nations.” YadVashem To view the impressive ceremony see the Yad Vashem photos and visit: http://www.tv7.fi/vod/player/?program=18610 .

Epilogue:

Stanislaw Kruminis, son of Marek and great-grandson of Antoni and Maria, graduated this year from university in Warsaw. He has been admitted to Hebrew University in Jerusalem where he is studying for a law degree specializing in criminology.