Bina Garncarska-Kadary was born in 1917 in Końskie, central Poland, into a religious family, and her birth name was Bina Judith Szarfharc. Her paternal grandfather had been a teacher at the famous Lublin yeshiva. Her father had moved to Konskie, and was a timber merchant. Bina's mother, Sara Rivke, died from scarlet fever in 1925. In 1932, upon finishing a Polish school, Bina moved to Łódź, where her four siblings had settled earlier. Bina's elder sister attempted to attract her to the leftist Zionist youth organization Gordoniyya, but Bina did not sympathize with Zionism. Sharing in the common anti-fascist mood, and believing that communism alone would be able to solve the Jewish question, she joined an illegal communist youth organization (most of whose members were Jews) in 1936. As a result, she was arrested in 1937, and spent a year in prison. Upon being released, she learned that the Polish Communist Party, with all of its branches, had been disbanded by Stalin. Bina then joined the moderate leftist Jewish People's Party (Folkspartei).
With the outbreak of World War II, Bina Szarfharc fled from Łódź into Soviet-controlled territory. Initially, she settled in Bobruisk, Belorussia, and then moved to the Crimea, where she worked as a seamstress at a factory.
In June 1941, the Soviet-German war began, and Bina decided to enlist in the Red Army. As a refugee from a foreign country, she realized that her chances of being accepted were slim. However, she knew the "right people" in the Komsomol (Young Communist) Committee of her city of Simferopol, and she asked them to put pressure on the enlistment office. As a result, she was enlisted, despite her lack of military training. Bina would later recall that, at that time, she bumped into a former Jewish schoolmate from Poland, and he tried to dissuade her from enlisting. He claimed that the condition of girls in the Soviet Army was miserable, and that she would suffer from sexual harassment;
"besides, … as a Jew and a refugee, you will always arouse suspicions in your superiors"1.
But Bina was adamant in her decision, and she replied that she was expecting the call-up notice to arrive any day now. She writes with some bitterness:
"However, I have to admit that all his warnings proved to be correct" 2
Meanwhile, Szarfharc was drafted and attached to a battalion of a rifle regiment as a saninstruktor (field nurse). The battalion saw action in the Crimea, and she was shocked by the haphazard military operations of the Red Army, the numbers of the wounded, and the commanders' disregard for the lives of their men. Then, there was a panicked retreat, and Bina lost her regiment and joined another one. On her way to the Kerch Strait, which separates the Crimea from the North Caucasus, she came along a string of Jewish kolkhozes (collective farms). She would later recall the desperation of the kolkhozniks, who were waiting for the inevitable arrival of the Germans; not one of them was able to flee. Szarfharc managed to cross the Strait; the Red Army was now retreating across the North Caucasus. Later, in 1942, the situation of the Red Army improved, and it succeeded in halting the German advance.
Throughout her service in the Red Army, Bina Szarfharc suffered from sexual harassment, especially from infantry officers. On several occasions, during the brief night rests, she had to physically shake the impudent men off her body. However, her real troubles came from another quarter.
In autumn 1941, Bina learned from the Soviet press that a Polish army corps was being formed in the Soviet Union (it would eventually become Anders' Army). Wishing to join it, she sent a letter to some Polish national committee in Moscow. This letter had an unintended effect: instead of being assigned to the Polish corps, Bina was approached by a representative of the "Special (osobyi) Department" of her regiment, who asked her to report to him about the moods and conversations of the other soldiers. Bina agreed, but the information she supplied to the "Special Department" was invariably harmless; she stressed that there were no "enemies of the people" in her battalion. The osobists tried to intimidate her, and, when they failed, they accused her of espionage. The "investigation" lasted for three months. At this time, Bina discovered that she was under surveillance; this discovery caused a deep sense of disillusionment with the Red Army, and with the Soviet Union as a whole.
After the three-month-long "investigation", Bina was caught reading Polish-language newspapers. The fact that these were communist newspapers published in Moscow was of no importance; all that mattered was that she was reading materials in a foreign language. In late July 1942, Szarfharc was transferred to a special army unit which she termed "the battalion of unreliables" [ibid., p. 174]. She found herself in the eastern Caucasus. Now, her dream was to be released from the Soviet Army. Surprisingly, her request to be discharged was satisfied.
Bina Szarfharc arrived in Soviet Central Asia as a civilian, and there, she was reunited with her relatives. In October 1942, her family moved to the Urals. In 1942-46, she changed her place of residence in Russia several times. In March 1946, almost a year after the end of the war, Bina Szarfharc-Garncarska was repatriated to Poland. Her attempt to find a home in communist Poland failed. In 1968, she left Poland for Israel, where she had an academic career (as a historian). Bina Garncarska-Kadary died in 2005.