Ian Kaplan was born in 1924 in Belorussia, but shortly afterwards his family moved to the town of Zhukovka, in western Russia. In Zhukovka Ian had just completed nine grades of a ten-year school when the Soviet-German war began in June 1941.
Kaplan's baptism by fire took place in August 1941, when Ian was only 17. Like other Zhukovka school students, he was mobilized to dig anti-tank trenches in the vicinity of Smolensk. On August 1, a young lieutenant came to them. He lined up all the young people and asked for volunteers from those who knew how to shoot a rifle -- to liquidate an enemy airborne landing unit that was operating in the vicinity. The lieutenant took 30 volunteers, including Kaplan to a field and gave them rifles and bullets and sent them, without any military training and in civilian clothes – to repulse the enemy unit. Kaplan recalled that the whole operation was conducted in a most incompetent and stupid way. Many of the seventeen-year-old volunteers were killed in the first clash. Kaplan was wounded. He noted that it was that operation that resulted in his disillusionment with the Soviet regime and its attitude to human life.
Soon after this first engagement, Ian and his family were evacuated to the Urals. In the town where the family settled Kaplan went to the conscription office and requested to be sent to the front lines. After he was rejected as being too young, he did not attempt to volunteer again. "After that one day of warfare that I experienced near Smolensk," he noted," I no longer wanted to be sent to the front".
However, in August 1942, the then 18-year- old Kaplan was drafted into the Red Army and sent to a school for machine-gunners. There the young cadet encountered antisemitism, as depicted in the following account:
"My first platoon commander, Lieutenant Kramarenko, was a nice and kind person, a Don Cossack, a daredevil, and we loved him. […] We had to learn to ride horseback. Why would future machine-gunners [...] need to ride? However, following our commanders' whim, we learned this even if I could not master all the tricks of being a cavalryman. Kramarenko lined us up and said: 'You will see how I will make a good Cossack [even] out of this Yid [zhid]!' In the morning, he approached me and said: 'Sorry for the word 'Yid', it's just the way everyone in the Don region talks. I didn't mean to offend you," and then he shook my hand."
However, there were examples of much worse antisemitism than that.
After four months of training, Junior Lieutenant Kaplan was sent to the front, assigned to the 32th Rifle Division as a platoon commander. At the beginning of 1943, the division fought in the area of Sukhinichi – Duminichi, in western Russia. Kaplan referred to the destruction of human life there as a meat grinder. In February 1943, he was seriously shell shocked. After a long stay in hospital, Lieutenant Kaplan returned to the frontlines as a company commander. He continued to fight in Belorussia, in the area north of Vitebsk. There, in December 1943, his entire battalion was wiped out by the Germans. Only three men survived, including Kaplan, who was seriously injured. By mistake, a document reporting his death in combat was sent to his mother.
Kaplan's was wounded again in 1944. He concluded that his survival was due either to a miracle or to the skill of the military surgeon who treated him. Kaplan was released from combat duty and sent to Lithuania, which has just been captured by the Red Army, to induce young (and reluctant) Lithuanians to join the Red Army. He ended the war as a military training instructor at his former school in his native Zhukovka. Kaplan continued to work in the same capacity in the postwar period. Subsequently, he graduated from a pedagogical institute and became the principal of his school.
Kaplan was awarded several military orders and medals, but all of them (except for one order) were stolen during his last stay in military hospital. His attempt to have his military awards restored to him according to his military records failed. A clerk in the office in Moscow where he went to request the restoration of his orders and medals said: "You can buy new ones in Tashkent [i.e. in the deep rear in Central Asia]".
 From the interview taken in 2006, see https://iremember.ru/memoirs/pulemetchiki/kaplan-yan-pavlovich/