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Ceremony in honor of Antanas Babonas and Ona & Antanas Korsakas from Lithuania

Antans Babonas (Right) Antans Babonas (Right)
The Babonas home The Babonas home
Antanas and Ona Korsakas Antanas and Ona Korsakas
Sara Gurvich with her husband and their son (1950's) Sara Gurvich with her husband and their son (1950's)
Jadviga Korsakiene, daughter-in-law of the late Antanas and Ona Korsakas received the awards, Yad Vashem, June 2011 Jadviga Korsakiene, daughter-in-law of the late Antanas and Ona Korsakas received the awards, Yad Vashem, June 2011
The descendants of Sara Gurvich and Roza Forkus, who were saved by Antanas Babonas and Ona & Antanas Korsakas with the rescuers daughter in law and granddaughter, Yad Vashem, June 2011 The descendants of Sara Gurvich and Roza Forkus, who were saved by Antanas Babonas and Ona & Antanas Korsakas with the rescuers daughter in law and granddaughter, Yad Vashem, June 2011

A ceremony was held at Yad Vashem on Thursday, June 2, 2011, posthumously honoring Antanas Babonas and his sister and brother-in-law Ona and Antanas Korsakas as Righteous Among the Nations. Ms. Jadviga Korsakiene, daughter-in-law of the late Antanas and Ona Korsakas received the medal on their behalf. The event will took place in the presence of Irena Skardziuviene, Deputy Ambassador of Lithuania in Israel, and of Dov and Moshe Gurvich, children of the late survivor Sara Gurvich, and Genya Forkus, daughter of the late survivor Roza Luria, and their extended family. A memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance was followed by the awarding of the medal and certificate in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem.

The two granddaughters - of the rescuers and of the survivors - spoke at the ceremony. Virginija Macioniene, the granddaughter of Ona and Antanas Korsakas who came from Lithuania for the ceremony with her mother Jadviga Korsakiene, told the audience that she and her mother were very proud to receive the awards. She spoke of the deep bond between the rescuer and survivor families, and expressed her hope that the next generations of both families would preserve the connection.

Gila Gurvich-Jaacobi, the granddaughter of Sara Gurvich, said:

"The Babonas family set an example by instilling in Rosa and Sara the hope and the will to continue to struggle against impossible odds, as well as strengthening their resolution to survive, their courage and faith in mankind and the courage that would accompany them for the rest of their lives, and which continues to guide the next generations of the family. ...One of the gifts of life that I carry with me I received from my grandmother. It is the faith in humanity, in the basic value of giving, education, love and naiveté in its most optimistic form. Grandmother always talked of the hearts that are inside, about love and the building of a future....Despite the horrors, despite the difficult times, she perpetuated the values of humanity, of growth and of moral education and life. After having learned the story of her survival, I believe that despite all hardships, it was thanks to the Babonas and Korsakas families, who instilled in her the values of rescue, giving and faith in Mankind."

The Rescue Story

Sara and Roza Furmansky were cousins who were born in Raseiniai, Lithuania. Sara went to the Hebrew language High school in Raseiniai, where one of her teachers was Lea Goldberg, who later emigrated to Palestine and became one of Israel's best known poets and writers.

When the Germans invaded Raseiniai on June 24, 1941, they immediately established a ghetto and the Jewish youth were sent to forced labor. Shortly thereafter, on August 29, the entire Jewish community of Raseiniai was executed. Sara and Roza, at the time young women of 19 and 22 years old, hid in a haystack, and thereby survived the massacre. The following day, Sara and Roza went to search for a hiding place. When they arrived in Girkalnis, the girls turned to a former classmate of Sara's sister who advised them to seek out Antanas Babonas. Antanas burst into tears upon hearing of the murder of Sara's parents who he knew personally. Antanas had Sara and Roza hide in a grain silo and provided them with meals twice daily. The girls remained hidden in the silo until the end of December 1941, but when the cold became unbearable they moved into Antanas' home. He prepared a pit under the country-style oven where they could lie down curled up together. Sara and Roza remained at Antanas' home until the end of July 1942, when Antanas' maid discovered the cousins, and they hurriedly left to seek shelter elsewhere. They wandered about, earning their keep as seamstresses and household help.

In December 1942, Sara became ill and decided to return to Antanas' home. He received her with open arms, but during the Summer of 1942, a former classmate of Sara's came to the house and recognized her. Gossip began to circulate that Antanas had a Jewish worker in his home. Antanas brought Sara to the home of his sister Ona Korskiene and her husband Antanas Korsakas who lived in the town of Gailiunai. Ona and Antanas treated Sara as a family member, although she posed as a household maid. The couple's son Algirdas, would warn Sara if danger was imminent and she would them hide. Sara remained with Ona and Antanas until liberation.

After liberation, Sara travelled to Kaunas where she was reunited with her cousin Roza. Sara and her family moved to Israel in 1969 and in 1972, Roza moved to Israel with her daughters Bella and Genya. Antanas Babonas passed away in 1960, Antanas Korsakas in 1965 and his wife Ona Korsakiene in 1974. On January 12, 2011, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous at Yad Vashem decided to recognize Antanas Babonas and Antanas and Ona Korsakas as Righteous Among the Nations.