From Cellar to Supper

The Fellowship  |  November 27, 2019

Photo of Jonas and Felicija Radlinkskas with the sisters they rescued, Dora and Shifra Reznik
Dora and Shifra Reznik

Dora and Shifra Reznik were Jewish sisters who led happy lives (that’s Shifra on the left and Dora wearing glasses) until the Nazis invaded their homeland of Lithuania. Except for the sisters, their entire extended family was murdered. Dora and Shifra escaped, and wandered for months.

At last they arrived at the home of Jonas and Felicija Radlinskas, a Tatar couple who were barely able to feed their own three daughters with their livelihood of subsistence farming. But seeing these starving sisters clothed only in the same shabby rags they had worn for nearly a year, Jonas and Felicija knew they could not turn the girls away.

During the summers, the sisters were hidden in haystacks in the fields, but during the brutal Lithuanian winters, they stayed safe in the Radlinskas’ cellar. To pass the winter days, Felicija would go down to the cellar and teach Dora and Shifra how to sew. And at night, the family would pull the shades tight and bring Dora and Shifra upstairs to share their supper. Being poor, rural farmers, Jonas and Felicija could not read. So when the girls were upstairs, they would read the newspaper to the family, telling them the latest developments with the war.

In August of 1944, there would be no more need to hide and no more need to search the papers for news, as the area was liberated from the Nazis and the Reznik sisters were safe at last. For their kind and brave actions — which carried on for nearly two years — Jonas and Felicija Radlinskas were named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial.

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