Haya-Lea was born in 1920 in Rovno, which then belonged to Poland. She grew up in a traditional Jewish family, joined a Zionist youth club called Hashomer Hatzair and looked forward to emigrating to Palestine, just like her sister. But the Soviets took eastern Poland in September 1939 and Haya-Lea’s membership in Hashomer Hatzair earned her a ten year sentence of hard labor in Siberia. The rest of her family remained behind, not knowing that the Nazis would overrun the town soon after Haya-Lea’s deportation to the east.
Haya-Lea survived the Gulag and moved to Leningrad (St. Petersburg), where she shared her story with Centropa in 2002. This film is dedicated to Haya-Lea, who died shortly after the interview.