Out of the Ghetto: Saving a Jewish Child from the Nazis

The Fellowship  |  December 28, 2020

Bronislava Kristopaviciene, who saved Jewish child from Kovno Ghetto
Bronislava Kristopaviciene, who saved Jewish child from Kovno Ghetto

Born to a Christian family in Belarus, Bronislava Kristopaviciene settled in Kovno, Lithuania, where she married and worked as a nurse. In 1940, the Soviets arrested Bronislava’s husband and he died in a Siberian labor camp, leaving his wife to raise their son alone, working in local hospitals to make ends meet.

Born in the Ghetto

In 1944, a young Jewish woman named Zinaida Levina approached Bronislava, a friend. For the past three years, Zinaida, her parents, her husband Grigoriy, and their daughter Anita — born under Nazi imprisonment — had been held in the Kovno Ghetto. Despite near starvation and horrid conditions, the family watched Anita grow into a happy and healthy toddler.

But the Nazis threatened Anita’s happiness… and her life. In March of 1944, the Nazis launched the “Children’s Aktion,” their plan to deport and murder the Jewish children living in the ghetto. Anita’s parents knew they had to get their precious daughter out of there.

Sneaked Out of the Ghetto

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 of an orphaned gentile relative.

Bronislava sent a letter to the ghetto to let the family know Anita was safe. The family, however, was not safe. Zinaida Levina sneaked out of the ghetto, herself, and found safety in another friend’s apartment. But Anita’s father and grandfather both died in the Dachau concentration camp, while her grandmother perished in the Salaspils concentration camp.

When Kovno was liberated later in 1944, Zinaida again held 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 saved Anita’s life, especially after bandits murdered the now-elderly woman’s son. Bronislava passed away at the age of 81, but Anita and her own family still cherish the memory of this Righteous Gentile, honored as such by Yad Vashem on Christmas Day of 2006.