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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus



Published: 2021-08-17


We kept walking and hoping that a miracle would happen and we would find the Matiukiewicz’s home. Without a map or a compass, without even knowing the way, we walked some 25 kilometres across a snowy forest, along pathways and mere signs of pathways, often even without any pathways, I would say, by merely following our doglike intuition, and we finally walked straight into the home of Konstanty Matiukiewicz, in absolute darkness, without even asking for directions and without any wandering around.
Moshe Kukliansky
One day in September 1941, with the assistance of Kazys Žukauskas from Bugieda village, Saulius Kukliansky with his three children Moshe, Ana and Samuel crossed the River Nemunas on a boat and found themselves in Świętojańsk village in German-occupied Poland. There they incredibly met another good man – Konstanty Matiukiewicz. Matiukiewicz welcomed the Kuklianskys very warmly, said that the Jews of Grodno were still free and living in their homes, and even suggested that they proceed to Grodno. Matiukiewicz even offered to escort the Kuklianskys to Grodno along back roads and forests. As he said, so he did.
The life of the Kuklianskys in the Grodno Ghetto is yet another story of fighting for survival. Every single day out of the seventeen months that the family spent in the Grodno Ghetto could have become fatal. On 18 February 1943, when only 1,000 out of the 30,000 Jews imprisoned in the Grodno Ghetto were left and the rest had already been taken to the death camps in Germany, the Kuklianskys escaped from the ghetto. In the middle of a snowstorm they successfully overcame several barbed wire fences with only one goal in mind – to find shelter in Lithuania, in the area around their native Veisiejai. However, for that they needed to cross the Polish-Lithuanian border. The Kuklianskys decided to try and reach Świętojańsk village and to ask Matiukiewicz for help one more time. Several days later, when the trash-ice on the River Nemunas was not that thick, Konstanty Matiukiewicz’s brother ferried the Kuklianskys to the Lithuanian side. The help that Konstanty Matiukiewicz and his brother extended to the Kuklianskys was extremely important both in autumn 1941 and in winter 1943.
From: Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe
Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, Vilnius, 2019
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