Born in Briceni, in the former Romania (now Moldova), in 1931, Fenia grew up in an observant middle-class Jewish family. Her father worked as an accountant and her mother was a homemaker. Fenia attended a Jewish school.
Once the war began in Briceni in 1941, all the Jews living there were rounded up and deported to a concentration camp in Secureni. That was the moment, Fenia recalls, when, at only 10 years of age, her childhood ended. Fenia and her parents were transferred to a ghetto in Kopaigorod two months after their arrival in the camp. The ghetto was located in Transnistria ó the area of southwestern Ukraine that was under Romanian control between 1941 and 1944. While in the ghetto, Feniaís parents worked in exchange for food, enabling the family to survive starvation and typhus.
Kopaigorod was liberated by the Soviet armed forces in March 1944. Fenia and her parents returned home to Briceni shortly after liberation.
"We became disillusioned
with the Soviets almost immediately. My uncle Koka was a very honest and well-respected man in the town. He had a textile store which heíd inherited from his grandfather. And for some reason, they sent him out to sweep the streets."