Arkadii Mindlin was born in the village of Redki, near Mozyr, south Belorussia, in 1919, the second of six children of Hirsh and Khaia Mindlin. His father was a cobbler by trade, but he was unable to support his family because of his poor eyesight, and so his mother Khaia had to work as a farmhand in a nearby kolkhoz (collective farm) to provide for her children. The elder brother, Mikhail, studied at a teachers' institute in Minsk, while the other siblings worked in the same kolkhoz. Living as they did among the peasantry, the Mindlins spoke the Polesian dialect of Belorussian and Russian. From a young age, Arkadii showed an aptitude for acting, and in the late 1930s he performed at the professional Polesian Drama Theater in Mozyr. In 1939, he was drafted into the Red Army and sent to a tank school.
In June 1941, the Soviet-German war broke out. Lieutenant Arkadii Mindlin began his combat service in its first days, serving as a tank commander; his regiment was deployed at the Northwestern Front, against the Wehrmacht's Army Group "North". He witnessed the humiliating retreat of the Red Army in summer 1941. In autumn 1941, his unit was transferred southward, to the defense of Kharkov (eastern Ukraine) and Belgorod (southern Russia). There, in October 1941, the unit was surrounded by enemy forces. His tank was hit, and his crew perished. Arkadii, who survived, managed to swim across the Severskii Donets River and reach its east bank. There, in a miraculous twist, he found an abandoned Soviet tank with a full fuel gauge, and drove it eastward, hoping to rejoin the Soviet forces. He managed to find a friendly unit, and two of its officers, who grasped his situation, gave him a crew and some ammunition, and immediately sent him to a battle that was going on in the area. In this battle, Arkadii was seriously wounded.
In 1943, Arkadii Mindlin fought in Ukraine. As an officer of the 37th Guards Tank Brigade, he took part in the liberation of southern Ukraine in July 1943 – March 1944. In the spring of 1944, when Arkadii was in Romania, he learned that the Red Army had liberated his native region. He sent a letter to the authorities of Redki, inquiring about the fate of his family.
Arkadii's sister Mariia, a former partisan, was alive. Much later, Arkadii learned that two of his brothers, Mikhail and Boris, were fighting at the front. However, his parents and two younger brothers, Veniamin and Nahum, were dead: They had tried to survive in the woods, but in the spring of 1942 they were found and killed by Belorussian collaborators. In May 1944, Arkadii took a furlough and went to Redki. There, he was reunited with his sister. Mariia Mindlina-Frenklakh recalls that her partisan comrades celebrated her meeting with Arkadii like a holiday. She writes:
"The first thing he asked me about was the fate of our relatives…. For me, the most incomprehensible thing was that he was weaker than I was. He suffered terribly. He wandered alone in the woods, locked himself in a room, and I heard groans coming from it; he was really howling. I tried to calm him down as best I could. Again and again, he asked me to talk about them, and I tried to explain that so many people had died, not just in our family, that only a handful had survived. I realized that I was powerless to distract him from his grief. My brother suffered and drank a lot. And our guys [Maria's former partisan comrades] "helped" him with the drinking…. He was unable to forgive himself for the death of his parents till the end of his days; he believed that he should have told them to flee".
As he was leaving Mozyr to rejoin his regiment, Arkadii asked Mariia to find Mikhail and Boris. Later, he sent his sister letters from the front. In them, he would write:
"The battle is over now. I have survived only thanks to you; it was you who saved me; find the others”.
In late 1944-45, Arkadii Mindlin fought in Hungary and finished the war in Vienna. On several occasions, he was wounded and burned during tank battles. He was awarded three military orders – two Orders of the Patriotic War and one Order of the Red Banner – in addition to medals. After the war, he continued to serve as a tank officer. Following his discharge, he settled in Minsk. Arkadii Mindlin died in 2001.
Arkadii's brothers, too, took part in the war: the elder, Mikhail, served with anti-aircraft units, while the third brother, Boris, was a member of a sabotage group that acted behind enemy lines, eventually becoming a foot soldier in the Red Army. Both survived the war. Boris Mindlin died in 1989, while Mikhail Mindlin passed away in 1990. Mariia Mindlina-Frenklakh lives in Moscow.