A small town in Southern Lithuania
Where the Jewish Community is no more
Righteous Gentiles of Vilkaviskis
Jusienė Uršulė (1911 - 1960 )
Jusas Mykolas (1888 - 1980 ), HUSBAND
Ursulė and Mykolas Jusas and their sons, Gediminas and Algirdas, lived in the village of Pilotiškiai in the vicinity of Vilkaviškis. They led a typical farmers’ life: worked their land, cared for domestic animals, every Sunday and holiday they went to their Catholic Church.
On June 22, 1941, Germany attacked the USSR and on the very same day Vilkaviškis was captured. The Jusases heard about the persecutions launched against the Jewish population, about the mass killings, but they only received a detailed picture of what was happening at the beginning of October, from the Jewish sisters Esther and Rivka Faktorovsky who they had hired as seasonal workers. The sisters related that soon after the Germans’ arrival their father was murdered, together with the male Jewish residents of Vilkaviškis. In hiding, they had survived the mass murder of the Jewish women and children on September 24, but then their shelter was discovered and they were taken to the city jail. The city authorities permitted farmers to use them as forced labor, and thus Esther and Rivka found themselves in Pilotiškiai. According to the German order, all Jewish laborers were to be returned to jail by November 15, which the Jusases did not obey. On the contrary, they hid the girls on their farm and would have kept them until the end of the occupation if they had not been denounced. On January 5, 1942 the police searched the farm and found the Jewish sisters. However, they were lucky again: they promised gold to the local police chief, gold that allegedly had been hidden by their family, and he spared their lives while other Jews, denounced and caught in their separate hideouts, were shot on January 8th. The police chief never had a chance to find out that Esther and Rivka had deceived him because the Germans arrested him as well. Taking advantage of this situation, the sisters wrote a letter to the Gestapo explaining that their long-deceased mother was a Lithuanian Catholic and that they had been baptized at birth. It was a sheer bluff on their part, but they had nothing to lose. Uršulė Jusienė and her sister, a Catholic nun, confirmed their statement. More then that, upon Uršulė’s request, the local priest Kardauskas gave the sisters false baptismal certificates. The investigation concerning Esther and Rivka’s identity lasted until May 28, 1942, during which time they were kept in prison. Uršulė visited them frequently, brought food, and raised their spirits. She never gave up hope that one day they’d be released, and she was right. On May 28, the sisters left their prison cell as free persons. Uršulė met them at the prison gate and took them home to Pilotiškiai. Until the Russians’ arrival on August 1, 1944, they stayed with the Jusases openly, as family members, working by their side, and going to Church on Sundays. After the liberation, they left Vilkaviškis, crossed the Polish border illegally and headed further to the West. In 1946, staying in the displaced persons camp of Landsberg, Esther and Rivka described the circumstances of their survival, praising a remarkable woman Uršulė Jusienė, who had risked her and her family’s lives for their sake. In 1948, the sisters settled in Israel, and both established families. They never revisited Lithuania and were afraid to harm the Jusases by writing to them. The bond was reestablished in 2008 between Esther (married name Fridman) and the rescuers’ offspring. Rivka (married name, Rosenthal) and the Jusas couple had passed away by then.
On December 7, 2008, Yad Vashem recognized Uršulė and Mykolas Jusas as Righteous Among the Nations.
Uršulė Jusienė with sons Gediminas and Albinas, 1958
Credit: received by e-mail from Alvydas Jusas, Ursule's grandson
Uršulė and Mykolas Jusas (standing), Ona Svygrienė (Uršulė's mother) with Albinas Jusas
Credit: received by e-mail form Alvydas Jusas, rescuers' grandson
Mykolas Jusas with his sons Albinas and Gediminas and Uršulė's mother Ona Svygrienė
Credit: received by e-mail from Alvydas Jusas, rescuers' grandson
Survivor Esther Fridman with her husband Jekutiel Fridman
Credit: received by e-mail from Esther's daughter, Tzipi Dorot