Lillian Gewirtzman (born Lila Rajs) is the daughter of Hershel and Chaja (Papier) Rajs. She was born June 11, 1934 in Grabowiec, Poland, where her father and grandfather owned and operated a flourmill. Soon after the outbreak of WWII, when it became clear that Grabowiec would fall under German jurisdiction, Lila's family (including her paternal grandparents and five unmarried aunts) fled to the Soviet sector of Poland. The Rajses became penniless refugees after leaving their home, because all of their assets were tied up in the mill they had left behind. The family also lived under the constant threat of deportation to Siberia. After watching the nearly daily departure of transports to the East, Hershel decided that it would be better for the family to volunteer for relocation to the Soviet interior than to be forcibly deported. The Rajses were sent to the village of Samja in Siberia, where they worked as lumberjacks in a nearby forest. All the adult members of the family were put to work except for Lila's mother, Chaja, who was pregnant with her second child. When Israel (Srulek) was born in May 1940, Chaja became deathly ill. She received permission to seek treatment at a hospital in the next larger village of Vologda, where she was nursed back to health by an attentive Jewish doctor. A few months later, after one of Lila's aunts got married and moved to the Ukraine, the rest of the family secured permission to join her. Though they had hoped to move to Kiev, they were permitted only as far as Cherkassy. In June 1941 when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Hershel was drafted into the Soviet army. While he was serving in Kiev, the rest of the family was evacuated eastward and ended up in Azerbaijan. Hershel was later discharged from the army after being wounded and eventually found the family in Agdam, a small town near Baku. The Rajses remained in Agdam for the next five years, living off Hershel's earnings on the black market. When the Soviet Union decreed in 1946 that former Polish citizens could be repatriated to Poland, the Rajses decided to return home. They remained, however, only a short time. After learning about the fate of their family and friends during the war, the Rajses decided to leave Poland. With the help of the Bricha, the family made their way to Germany via Czechoslovakia and Austria. Initially they lived at the displaced persons camp in Ulm, before moving in 1948 to the Feldafing camp. Owing to a number of health problems, the Rajses were unable to obtain visas to the United States until 1951.