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I was born in Minsk on July 22, 1934, the eldest of two children in a Jewish-Polish-Lithuanian family. My father, Mikalai Birger, was an athlete and trainer, while my mother Zosia Chepelyanis worked in a store. In 1940 my father was arrested. At the beginning of the war, he was taken out of Minsk with other prisoners, and ended up with relatives in Ulyanovsk (in western Russia), where he was conscripted into the army. I stayed in Minsk, together with my mother and brother. In 1944 I was taken to Vilnius, where I went into hiding at the home of my family’s acquaintances. After the war, I returned to Minsk to be with my family. I graduated from the Construction College, then from the Polytechnic Institute. I worked at construction companies in various positions ranging from engineer to head of the trust. I am married and have a son.

I feel very connected to my Jewish identity, but not my Polish one. But I understand the Polish language a little, because my grandmother spoke Polish with my mother at home.

My father went to the east. In his group of former inmates that returned to Minsk in 1941, there was one terrible person. I remember very well how a group of policemen came to our home on Engels Street. Leading this group was that person who was in prison with my father, who knew that he was a Jew and threatened to reveal us, so that my life would end in the ghetto. He would come to us from time to time, and my mother would have to give him everything we had left, including most of our valuables. My mother had a lot of friends and many of them had Jewish husbands. These friends were taken to concentration camps, and their children died. So it was a miracle that I survived.

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