Manya was born in Dombrovitsa, Poland in 1923. Her family was orthodox and considerably large, numbering close to 200. Following the outbreak of the war in 1939, the Soviet Union occupied Dombrovitsa. Russian occupation ended however in 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union and Manya's hometown fell into German hands. The Jews in Dombrovitsa immediately felt the effects of German anti-Semitic measures. In August 1942, the Germans liquidated the ghetto in Dombrovitsa and Manya, along with her father, brother and eldest sister escaped into the forest. Her mother and her two sisters remained and they were deported to the nearby town of Sarny where they were murdered. After fleeing the Germans, Manya and her remaining family joined the Kovpak partisan movement. Manya was separated from her father and siblings and spent the remainder of the war hiding in several small villages in the region and serving in different partisan units. Her father and siblings were killed in combat. Following the end of the war, Manya was placed in a DP camp in Berlin. She then emigrated to the United States.
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