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Life Saving Cross with a striped ribbon and presentation box awarded to a Lithuanian rescuer

Object | Accession Number: 2013.503.1.2 a-b

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    Life Saving Cross with a striped ribbon and presentation box awarded to a Lithuanian rescuer


    Brief Narrative
    Zuvanciuju Gelbejimo Kryzius [Life Saving Cross] of Lithuania with fitted case awarded to Lidija Goluboviene and presented to Rosian Bagriansky Zerner, who as a 6 year old child, was hidden by Lidija, and also Natalija Fugaleviciue, Natalija Egorovna, Bronia Budrekaite, and Helene Holzman. The medal is awarded to those who, despite danger to themselves, perform acts of bravery that save the life of others. The medal was presented to Rosian at a 2009 ceremony in Lithuania. Lidija's sister Natalija Fugaleviciue was also honored with the award. After Germany invaded Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, in June 1941, Rosian and her parents, Gerta and Paulius, were interned in the Jewish ghetto. There were periodic massacres of Jews in the ghetto, and within six months, half the Jewish population had been murdered by the Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators. On January 16, 1942, her parents pushed Rosian under the fence where she was met by Bronia Budrekaite. She later took Rosian to the home of Natalija Fugaleviciute and Natalija Jegorova. Gerta and Paulius escaped soon after Rosian to the Vilnius ghetto. Her father joined the partisans. Gerta was taken to Natalija's by Rifka Shmukler, another ghetto escapee. After a brief reunion, Gerta and Rosian went into hiding separately. Rosian later was taken to Natalija's sister, Lidija Goluboviene, in Kulautuva, where she stayed until the end of the war, along with over a dozen other children rescued by Lidija. The region was liberated by the Soviet Army in August 1944. Rosian and Gerta rejoined Paulius in Kovno.
    issue:  2009
    commemoration:  1942-1944
    issue: Lithuania
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Rosian Bagriansky Zerner
    a. front, bottom arm, gold letters : SOS
    a. back : ZUVANCIUJU GELBETOJUI [Life Rescuers]
    Subject: Rosian Zerner
    Subject: Lidija Goluboviene
    Rosian Bagriansky was born on October 23, 1935, in Kaunas (Kovno), Lithuania, to Paulius and Gerta Chason Bagriansky. Paulius was an attorney and an international textile merchant. He was born on January 24, 1906, to Zalman and Amalia Meyer Bagriansky near Vilna, in Prienai, Lithuania. He had a brother Wolf and a sister Lyda who married the composer Edwin Geist (1902-1942) in 1936. Gerta was born on August 8, 1908, in Koenigsberg, Germany, to Julius and Anna Blumenthal Chason, but was raised in Danzig. Gerta had two sisters, Bella, the eldest, and Heniruth (Henia), the youngest, and a brother Fredy. Bella lived in Germany and was married to General Buehler. She was a member of the Mary Wigman Dance Company, a pioneering modern dance troupe. Gerta was a Berlin and Paris trained concert pianist and music teacher. Gerta met Paulius during a trip to Lithuania and they married on January 24, 1934. The day after Rosian was born, her maternal grandparents, Julius and Anna Chason, with Bella, Henia, and Fredy, immigrated to Palestine to join Anna's sister and her husband who resided there. Kaunas had a vibrant, Jewish community that was about one quarter of the city’s population. The family lived in a centrally located apartment owned by Rosian's paternal grandfather, who built one of the first electric flour-processing factory mills in Lithuania. Paulius's business was very successful and the family was prosperous, with a 1935 American Ford, a chauffeur, and servants. Paulius purchased land in Canada with plans to move there with his family. However, before that occurred, Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, and the outbreak of World War II made immigration impossible. In June 1940, the Soviets occupied and annexed Lithuania. Jewish organizations were closed and property was appropriated by the state.

    In June 1941, Germany launched a surprise attack on the Soviet Union. The invasion was accompanied by pogroms carried out by the local population, often assisting German mobile killing squads, in which thousands of Jews were murdered. Kaunas was occupied on July 24. Rosian's paternal grandfather Zalman was arrested and jailed in the 7th Fort, where he was allegedly tortured and murdered. Her paternal grandmother Amalie was also killed during the early weeks of the invasion. She was denounced by a neighbor for forgetting to wear her yellow star badge in a bread line, arrested, and not seen again. The Jewish population was forced into a ghetto which was sealed in August. Rosian's family had to share one room. Food was extremely scarce and disease was widespread. Gerta's best friend Rifka Shmukler lived with them. Paulius was in a work brigade that did electrical work outside the ghetto. There were periodic massacres of thousands of Jews in a fort on the city outskirts. Within six months, half the Jewish population had been murdered by the Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators. At one point, Gerta made the family signs identifying them as work brigade laborers and they were not taken. Rosian’s parents dug a hole under the barbed wire fence around the ghetto, big enough for 6 year old Rosian to use to escape. They studied the searchlight timing, and dog and guard rotations and, on January 16, 1942, during a pause between lights and patrols, pushed Rosian through the hole to safety. She was met on the other side by Bronia Budrekaite, her father's former secretary, and sister-in-law of Jacob Gens, Jewish head of Vilna ghetto. Rosian cried a great deal and Bronia was afraid to keep her. Rosian was baptized by Pastor Vaitkus, and later taken to the home of Natalija (Natashok) Fugaleviciute, an artist, and Natalija (Paviasha) Jegorova, a journalist, in Zaliakalnis. The women were devout Christian Scientists, a group also persecuted by the Germans. Soon after Rosian left, Gerta helped Paulius escape and then escaped herself, with the help of Rifka Shmukler, a journalist and longtime friend of the two Natalijas. Gerta met Paulius in Vilna. Paulius was arrested and after his release, he left to join the partisans in the nearby Rudniki forests. Gerta left to find Rosian and mother and daughter were reunited at Natalija's. After a few weeks, Rosian was taken to the Kulautuva farm of Lidija Goluboviene, Natashok’s older sister. She took care of Rosian until the end of the war, along with several other children. Gerta went into hiding separately under an assumed identity as a Christian. Both Gerta and Rosian had blue eyes and fair complexion, which helped to sustain their assumed identities. Gerta was able to visit Rosian only twice, once bringing her a doll made from scraps of wood, her only toy, and the second time, a candy that Rosian had not had since they were in the ghetto. In late July 1944, two young girls arrived at Lidija's from her sister's. There was intense fighting in the area between advancing Soviet and retreating German forces. Lidija, and those living in hiding with her, fled briefly to the forest until August 3, when the fighting subsided and the area was back under Soviet control. The war in Europe ended with Germany’s surrender in early May 1945.

    Rosian and Gerta returned to Kaunas and were reunited with Paulius. Thirty-seven relatives were known to have been killed. Paulius's sister and her husband, Lyda and Edwin Geist, were interned in Vilna ghetto. In fall 1941, Edwin was released from the ghetto because a friend was the mistress of Helmut Razka, a Nazi officer in charge of the killing operations. Lyda was allowed to join him in fall 1942. Shortly after this, Edwin was arrested, imprisoned in 9th Fort, and killed by the Gestapo. Lyda then committed suicide. Paulius's brother Wolf has escaped to the Soviet Union where he survived the war. He eventually went to Israel, where he later passed away.

    Rosian and her parents remained for a while in Lithuania. Gerta became concertmaster of the Lithuanian Opera, while Paulius went to Vilnius to try to start a business. The USSR's repatriation program gave refugees permission to return to previous places of residence, and the family acquired repatriation papers for Danzig, now part of Poland. They left for Poland in June 1945, but Gerta got them false passports and they continued on, illegally travelling through Czechoslovakia and Hungary to Ursulinenkloster displaced persons camp in Graz, Austria. Hoping to emigrate to Palestine, they continued to Italy. Since her parents were destitute and there was never enough food, they placed Rosian in Scesiopoli children's home in Selvino. She later went to a hachshara kibbutz in Avigliano which prepared refugees to emigrate to Palestine, and also served as a Haganah training camp. Gerta and Paulius settled in Milan. Paulius used his prewar business contacts to reestablish himself and became financially secure. Rosian rejoined them in Milan, where she attended the ballet school at La Scala. On May 3, 1947, Gerta had a son Joachim.

    With assistance from the International Refugee Organization and the sponsorship of a relative, Louis Segal, the family obtained US visas. In October 1951, the family sailed on the Independence to the United States. They settled in Newton, Massachusetts, where Gerta's cousins had immigrated in the 19th century. Rosian attended Barnard College and Columbia University, married, and had two sons. Six of the women who rescued Rosian and her mother, and aided other family members: Lidija Goluboviene (1896-1989), Natalija Fugaleviciute (1905-1985), Natalija Egorova (1899-1989), Helene Holzman (1891-1968), Bronja Budreikaite, and Vitautas Kauniestskas were honored in 2005 by Yad Vashem as Righteous among Nations. Rosian Bagriansky Zerner has been a dedicated advocate for Holocaust survivors. Paul, 90, died in November 1996. Gerta, 100, passed away in December 2008, in Newton.
    Lidija Fugaleviciute was born in 1896 in Lithuania. She was of Russian extraction and had a younger sister Natalija (Natoshok) Fugaleviciute, born 1905. Lidija’s married name was Lidija Goluboviene, and she was a widow by the 1930s. She lived in a private house with a garden in Kulautuva, near Kaunas. Her sister, an artist, lived nearby in Zaliakalnis, with a friend Natalija (Paviasha) Jegorova, born 1899. Paviasha was also Russian and, in 1940, moved to Lithuania for her job with the ELTA news agency, a wire agency that worked with the major foreign news bureaus. In June 1940, Lithuania was incorporated into the Soviet Union. Kaunas was about 25 per cent Jewish. The Soviets nationalized property and businesses and closed cultural and religious organizations. On June 22, 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and Soviet forces fled Kaunas. There were widespread attacks on Jews by pro-German, anti-Jewish Lithuanians, killing hundreds. In July, German mobile killing units, known as Einsatzgruppe, arrived, with Lithuanian auxiliaries, and thousands of Jews were massacred.

    Lidija opened her home to care for and hide people persecuted by the German occupation administration. She provided shelter for persecuted Jews, Russian refugees, and children orphaned or those made homeless by the war. The first person she took in was a deaf and dumb Lithuanian boy, Vitukas. Lidija’s sister and her friend were devout Christians and were inspired by their faith to come to the aid of those in need, whatever their religion or ethnicity. In September 1941, they gave shelter to Helene Holzman, a non-Jewish German painter whose husband was Jewish, and her daughter Margarete. In January 29, 1942, they began hiding Jewish people in their home. The first to stay was a longtime friend, Rifka Shmukler, a journalist, with her friend from Kaunas ghetto, Gerta Bagriansky. They were joined several days later by Gerta's six year old daughter Rosian. Rifka had lived with Gerta, her husband Paulius, and Rosian when all were interned in Kaunas ghetto, which was set up by the Germans in August 1941. On January 16, 1942, Gerta and Paulius pushed Rosian through a hole they had previously dug beneath the ghetto fence, where a friend was waiting to take her to safety. Gerta then helped Paulius escape and then she escaped. Rifka slept elsewhere, and Gerta and Rosian were able to be together all this time. After a while, Rosian was taken to stay with Lidija in Kulautuva. Gerta also moved to Kulautuva, where she lived for nearly a year under an assumed identity as a Christian on the city outskirts

    Rosian was fair haired and spoke fluent Lithuanian, and no one suspected she was Jewish. Lidija next took in Klavdia Shatnova, the wife of a Russian Soviet Army officer, and her two children and elderly parents. Two young girls, Rima and Tanya, were brought to the house, rescued from a train packed with slave laborers from Belarus, on its way to Germany. In late 1943, a two year old Jewish boy, Moishe Lafer, was brought to Lidija’s by Cila Ginzburg, a member of the Kaunas ghetto underground. In 1944, another girl first hidden by the two Natalijas, Fruma Vitkin, 11, arrived to join the group. She had also been hidden by Helene Holzman, the first woman rescued by Natalija and her daughter Margarete. Lidija also gave aid to escaped Russian prisoners of war.

    Like Lidija, the two Natalijas harbored over a dozen Jewish persons fleeing the ghetto and the Germans, among them were Bat-Sheva Taboriski, Anya Rudaitski, who did not survive, Rosa and Margita Stender, the Ginkas, Gita Judeleviciute, 14, Dvora Biron, and Rosian and Fruma who also stayed with Lidija. Bread and vegetables from Lidija’s garden were a major source of food for those staying with Natalija. Natalija also convinced other friends and acquaintances that they should provide refuge for endangered Jewish people. She frequently visited children she placed with others, checking on their safety and providing comfort. One former hidden child described her as "a light amid the darkness."

    The region was liberated by the Soviet Army in August 1944. On August 4, Soviet soldiers arrived in Kulautuva and one photographed Lidija with the children she had saved. The war ended with Germany’s surrender in early May 1945. Rosian and her mother Gerta were reunited with Paulius in Kaunas. In 1946, they moved to Italy, and then the United States. Most of the others that Natalija hid emigrated to Palestine/Israel. Lidija’s sister and her friend, Natoshok and Paviasha, moved to Vilnius. Lidija was arrested by the Soviet authorities and exiled to Siberia. Her property was confiscated. In 1959, she was released and allowed to return to Lithuania. Lidija settled in Vilnius where she taught piano.

    In 1970, Lidija Goluboviene and her sister Natalija Fugaleviciute were awarded a Life Saving Cross of Lithuania for their rescue work. The medal is awarded to those who, despite danger to themselves, perform acts of bravery that save the life of others. Natoshok, 80, died in Vilnius in 1985. Paviasha, 90, passed away in 1989. Lidija, 93, died in 1989. Natalija Fugaleviciute, Lidija Goluboviene, Helene Holzmann, and Natalija Jegorova were honored in February 2005 by Yad Vashem as Righteous among the Nations.

    Physical Details

    6 boxes
    Physical Description
    a. Gold colored metal, equilateral cross medal with widened, flat ended arms and an attached ribbon. The front center has an enameled red field with a white dove in flight with a laurel branch in its beak, and the letters SOS in gold in the cross arm below. The reverse has a circular gold colored medallion with a gold colored figure on a horse on a red enamel field within a black ring with gold Lithuanian text. At the top, a suspension ring is inserted into a holding bar threaded with a ribbon. The grosgrain ribbon has 9 vertical stripes: narrow red, white pinstripe, red pinstripe, white, wide center red, white, red pinstripe, white pinstripe, narrow red. A 2 prong pin is inserted in the back.
    b. Rectangular, cardboard, top hinged clamshell case covered with dark red imitation leather. Impressed on the top in gold ink is a shield with a mounted knight holding a sword and a shield. The interior base has a molded cardboard insert with a fitted indent for the medal. Both lid and base interior are covered with black velvety cloth.
    a: Height: 3.000 inches (7.62 cm) | Width: 1.375 inches (3.493 cm) | Depth: 0.125 inches (0.318 cm)
    b: Height: 5.125 inches (13.017 cm) | Width: 3.000 inches (7.62 cm) | Depth: 0.750 inches (1.905 cm)
    a : metal, ribbon, enamel paint
    b : plastic, cardboard, cloth, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The medal was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2013 by Rosian Zerner.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2022-09-12 12:12:03
    This page:

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