In 1943, twenty-year-old Ona Urbonas was still living at home with her family who had a farm in a small village outside the Lithuanian city of Kaunas (then called Kovno). German forces had taken control of Lithuania and confined all of Kovno’s Jews into a ghetto.
One day, Ona’s father, Andrius, brought home a desperate man looking for a place to hide. Yerachmiel Siniuk had worked at a German forced labor camp, and lost an arm in an ammunitions accident. Fearful that he would be considered useless and put to death, he managed to escape to seek safe shelter. Andrius let Yerachmiel stay in the mill on his farm.
One of Ona’s duties was to help cook the meals. She brought food to Yerachmiel twice a day, being careful not to arouse suspicion with the neighbors.
After a while, Yerachmiel convinced Andrius to allow more Jews to stay on his farm. Eventually, a total of eight Jews from the ghetto were staying in the mill. Ona continued to help with the food, as well as wash and mend the clothes for their guests in hiding.
This group of refugees stayed with the Urbonas family until Kovno was liberated by the Soviet Army in July, 1944.
Ona was granted the honorary title of Righteous Among the Nations at Isreal’s Yad Vashem in 1998.
Yerachmiel, in recommending the Urbonas family for this award, wrote, ”The whole family welcomed me warmly, fed me, gave me a hiding place. They were aware of the danger and risk they had taken upon themselves but still risked their lives for us.”
Edited by Stephanie Surach