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A Pastor Imprisoned

Pastor Vladimir Kuna (Photo: Yad Vashem)

Pastor Vladimir Kuna

A Protestant pastor in Slovakia in the first half of the 20th century, Vladimir Kuna was also in charge of his church's orphanage. As the Nazis began to persecute the Jews in his country, Pastor Kuna became the last resort for many Jewish parents who asked that he shelter their children.

Pastor Kuna knew that it was his moral duty to protect these children — God's children — who so needed his help, and his church realized this, as well, giving him the authority to take them in. Jewish children soon began to arrive at the pastor's orphanage.

The many children stayed there safely until the Slovak National Uprising in the summer of 1944, when some parents came for their kids, knowing they could live safely in areas controlled by the resistance.

As the war wound down, a few children remained under Pastor Kuna's care, and all of them survived. One of these children was little Laco Teschner, whose mother worked at the orphanage as a cook and whose life was also saved by Pastor Kuna.

Twenty-six children were saved by the pastor, and while they stayed with him, Kuna taught them and made sure they were comfortable and happy. After class each morning, the children spent the afternoons gardening and playing. When any child grew ill, Pastor Kuna made sure they weren't officially registered, so their identities would stay secret.

The entire time he sheltered Jewish children, Pastor Kuna was suspected of this "wrong-doing," but no one informed the authorities of what he was doing. In November of 1944, the resistance was supressed by the Nazis and Pastor Kuna was arrested by the Gestapo. He was released in January, but his actions were closely supervised afterwards. As the SS took over the orphanage, the children were safely transferred to a nearby city where the local Protestant community sheltered them. Once the war was over, the children were returned to the orphanage where their lives had been saved. Among the children who survived were two Jewish girls named Marta. Many years later, in 1979, the two Martas paid a surprise visit to the elderly Pastor Kuna, arriving with their own daughters to thank him for his heroic actions. The pastor had already been recognized as a Righteous Gentile by Yad Vashem in 1972.

Tags: Advocates and Allies

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