"If we send them away to their death, our conscience will torture us until the day we die." Juozas Audejus, Vilnius, (Lithuania), 1943.
World War II ended 65 years ago, but political, economic and social consequences are still felt throughout the Western World. At personal levels, those consequences are demonstrated through individual narratives. The generation of people from the Baltic States, who grew up and suffered the turmoil of WWII, is passing. It is timely and imperative to record their pre-war childhood with values instilled by their parents and how those values have shaped their lives in carrying them through those turbulent years and beyond. I followed the pathway of the young Aldona Krutulis, nee Audejus, born in Kaunas, Lithuania on 4th July, 1922. At the age of twenty-two, and alone, Aldona fled her country to the West, to avoid the advancing Russian Army. She married in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany, gave birth to a daughter, Danute, and then in 1950, resettled in Perth, Western Australia. Cast alone from kith, kin and culture, her circumstances forced choices, created opportunities and closed doors. Aldona’s story documents religious and moral values instilled by her parents, and what motivated her to overcome adversities that transformed an ordinary life into one of remarkable achievement. Her attitude to the less-fortunate can be characterised by the words; duty, responsibility, self-sacrifice and respect for humanity. Those values are illustrated by the way in which, together with her family, they rescued Jews who, during the Nazi Occupation of Vilnius, were hunted and persecuted. In 1970, recognised for her act of humanity and unselfishness, Aldona was awarded the Yad Vashem Medal and Certificate of Honour. She always helped people: whether footslogging alongside Italian war prisoners to whom she gave food; or as a domestic worker at Wanslea - Home for Children of Sick Mothers; or as an interpreter for patients at Royal Perth Hospital. She also gave clothing to the poor and food to the hungry. She continually practised those values until her death at the age of 86, in Perth, Western Australia. From an outsider's perspective, Aldona's life seems harsh but her character shone through distressful times. In this paper, the life story shared with us has been told by Aldona with corroboration by her daughter, Danute. It gives insight into lives of ordinary people with moral values which overcome boundaries of nationality, religion and social fabric.
Vico, M. (2011). Aldona Krutulis. Paper presented at the 9th Conference on Baltic Studies in Europe. Soderton University, Stockholm, Sweden: Centre for Baltic and East European Studies.