Birthdate: August 25, 1941
Birthplace: Vilna, Lithuania
“I was locked up there, and the reason I was like that was because I was born Jewish and I was not supposed to be alive.”
Shulamit Bastacky was born shortly after the Nazis seized power in Vilnius. Her parents made the difficult decision to give up their daughter to protect her from being killed by the Nazis. A Polish Catholic nun kept Shulamit in a basement, where she was deprived of nourishment and nurturing for the first few years of her life. Nevertheless, Shulamit credited the nun with saving her life. Meanwhile, Shulamit’s parents spent the war enslaved in a small labor camp.
After her parents were liberated, they began looking for their daughter, as did many families who had placed their children in the care of others. After liberation, the nun left Shulamit on a riverbank, where a Lithuanian man found her and took her to an orphanage. There, she was given a new name, until by chance her father walked into the orphanage and was able to identify her from a birthmark.
After the family was reunited, they moved to Poland. It took Shulamit a long time to adjust to life outside of the basement, and her parents had to learn how to be parents again. In 1959, Shulamit traveled to Israel, where she lived for five years and served in the Israeli army. She then immigrated to the United States in 1963. She began learning English and finished high school, and was later accepted to the University of Pittsburgh, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Social Work.
After graduating, she worked in the field of geriatric social work. Shulamit developed a teddy bear project where children collect and distribute teddy bears to those who, like her, were not fortunate enough to have them. At the time of her In Celebration of Life interview, she had been speaking and sharing her story with children and adults for over 30 years, and her presentation focused on ignorance, hate, and prejudice.
“She [the nun] is one of the reasons why I speak, to honor her for saving my life.”
-Biography from “In Celebration of Life: The Living Legacy Project”
Shulamit passed away after a brief battle with cancer on January 1, 2021.
Shulamit did not have any children who could tell her story. After dedicating her life to teachers and students, to caring for others, and to keeping memory of the Holocaust alive, the Holocaust Center community has taken it upon ourselves to carry on her legacy.
Shulamit Bastacky’s Obituary
Memorial from Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6AS1jHLHXk