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Leonilda Giedraitis-Svilas, VA doctor, dies

Dr. Leonilda Giedraitis-Svilas, who worked at the Northport

Dr. Leonilda Giedraitis-Svilas, who worked at the Northport VA Hospital for 24 years, died at her home. She was 98. (April 19, 2013) Credit: Handout

As a Russian-born doctor, Leonilda Giedraitis-Svilas cared for people in refugee camps after World War II. She would later treat American war veterans on Long Island as a longtime physician at the Northport VA Medical Center.

She died Friday at her East Northport home after battling illnesses for years, her family said. She was 98.

Giedraitis-Svilas fled her native Lithuania in October 1944, escaping Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's attempts to put professionals, intellectuals and land owners to death -- or in Siberian labor camps, said her son, Rim Giedraitis, of Smithtown.

"She didn't do too much talking about the experience," he said. "She was a very quiet lady who worked very hard."

He said he was 17 months old when his mother and father escaped to Germany in a horse-drawn wagon as the war raged on. A family hid them for close to a year, the son said.

Immediately after the war, Giedraitis-Svilas served as a doctor at refugee camps in the British occupied zone, he said. The family remained in Germany until June 1949, when a relative sponsored their relocation to Hartford.

In 1958, Giedraitis-Svilas obtained her New York State medical license and served as an emergency physician at Idlewild Airport in Queens, later renamed Kennedy Airport.

She moved with her family to East Northport in 1961 after she was hired as an internal medicine doctor by the Northport VA hospital. She worked there for 24 years, receiving the hospital's Hands and Heart Award in 1981 for excellence in patient care. She retired in 1985, her son said.

Giedraitis-Svilas also taught courses at Stony Brook University in the 1970s, and despite her professional obligations, her son said, she sewed her own dresses, upholstered furniture and cooked "tremendous cakes and pies."

"There wasn't anything she couldn't do," Giedraitis said.

Her husband of 67 years was Joseph Giedraitis, a longtime president of the Lithuanian National Foundation, a Manhattan-based nonprofit that raises money for cultural initiatives. He died in 2008 at 97.

In addition to her son, Giedraitis-Svilas is survived by a brother, Vytautaus Svilas, of Hamilton, Ontario; a sister, Birute Lukosius, of Windsor, Ontario; a daughter, Aldona Hyde, of Fairhope, Ala.; four grandsons; and six great-grandchildren.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for 9:15 a.m. Saturday at Saint Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, 20 Cheshire Place, in East Northport.

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