Born to a Christian family in Belarus, Bronislava Kristopaviciene settled in Kovno, Lithuania, where she married and worked as a nurse. In 1940, Bronislava’s husband was arrested by the Soviets and died in a Siberian labor camp, leaving his wife to raise their son alone, working in local hospitals to make ends meet.
In 1944, Bronislava was approached by a friend, a young Jewish woman named Zinaida Levina. For the past three years, Zinaida, her parents, her husband Grigoriy, and their daughter Anita — who had been born under Nazi imprisonment — had been held in the Kovno Ghetto. Despite near starvation and horrid conditions, the family had watched Anita grow into a happy and healthy toddler. But Anita’s happiness, and her life, were about to be threatened. In March of 1944, the Nazis launched the “Children’s Aktion,” which would deport and murder the Jewish children living in the ghetto. Anita’s parents knew they had to get their precious daughter out of there.
Bronislava agreed to help her friend. One night, she sneaked into the ghetto disguised as a member of the forced Jewish labor brigade. She left the next morning in the same disguise, hiding the small, sleeping girl in a potato sack!
After Anita grew used to her new protector and learned Lithuanian, the small girl lived in Bronislava’s small apartment under the guise that she was an orphaned relative.
Bronislava sent a letter to the ghetto to let the family know Anita was safe. The family, however, was not safe. Zinaida sneaked out of the ghetto, herself, and found safety in another friend’s apartment. Anita’s father and grandparents were not so lucky. The girl’s father and grandfather both died in the Dachau concentration camp, while her grandmother was murdered in the Salaspils concentration camp.
When Kovno was liberated later in 1944, Zinaida was reunited with her precious little girl. Anita’s mother remarried, and the family settled in Vilnius. But they continued to visit and help Bronislava, the angel who had saved Anita’s life, especially after the now-elderly woman’s son was murdered by bandits. Bronislava passed away at the age of 81, but Anita and her own family still cherish the memory of this Righteous Gentile who was honored as such by Yad Vashem on Christmas Day of 2006.Tags: Advocates and Allies