A stele with a bas-relief and inscription was erected at a ceremony in Širvintos, Lithuania, May 19 to commemorate Liba Mednik (Mednikienė), who fought for Lithuanian independence when the first republic was being created in the early 20th century.
Sculptor Romualdas Kvintas designed the memorial to look like a Jewish headstone, a stone slab with inscription, and with a bronze image of the woman attached in bas-relief fashion. The bronze portion of the monument was cast and installed on the stone by the sculptor Mindaugas Šnipas by request of the Vilnius Jerusalem of the North Jewish Community. Kvintas has done a number of large stone sculptures on Jewish themes.
Mednik, who was born in 1875, lived through the entire tragedy of the Jewish people in Lithuania, fighting for Lithuanian independence and the interwar Republic, and being murdered in the Holocaust in Lithuania. According to historian Stanislovas Dačka, she was murdered in the Pivonika forest near Ukmergė (Vilkomir) with about 12,000 other Jews from the area in early autumn of 1941. Širvintos, her hometown, lies about 15 kilometers to the southeast of Ukmergė.
Vilijus Kavalauskas celebrated her in his book “Lietuvos karžygiai: Vyties Kryžiaus kavalieriai,” calling her a unique and strong character. During the Lithuanian conflict with Poland in 1922 and 1923, Liba Mednik collected military intelligence and distributed it to the Lithuanian military and Lithuanian partisans. She sent documents garnered from Polish headquarters and money to the Lithuanian fighters, Kavaliauskas reports.
In 1928 the Lithuanian Ministry of National Defense recognized Mednik for her partisan activities, bestowing upon her the Order of the Cross of Vytis. Lithuanian general Povilas Plechavičius presented the award to her personally. She is the only Jewish woman ever to have received this award. A year later she received the Medal of Independence.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said Liba Mednik’s life testifies to the entire tragedy of the Jewish people in Lithuania: having fought for Lithuanian independence before the war, she was murdered in her hometown in her native Lithuania.
Chairwoman Faina Kukliansky addresses ceremony
Vilius Kavaliauskas, standing, second from right