Iefim Roizen was born in 1921 in Kiev. In 1926, his family moved to Moscow. His father Shimon was a watch repairer. In 1928, the GPU (political police) arrested Shimon on the suspicion that he was hoarding gold in his apartment. During the interrogations, he was tortured, and he came back home a sick man, having handed all his valuables over to the "State". In 1938, Iefim Roizen began to attend the Faculty of Physics of Moscow State University, but in 1939 he was drafted into the Red Army. In September 1939, he took part in the Soviet invasion of eastern Poland, in the aftermath of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. According to his recollections 1 when Soviet troops entered Lvov, which was being evacuated by the Wehrmacht at the time, a skirmish broke out between the Soviets and the Germans, but the commanders stopped it.
In Lvov, Roizen, as an "educated" man, served in the radio communication unit of the 8th Tank Division. On the eve of the outbreak of the Soviet-German war in June 1941, he was the commander of a mobile radio station, in the rank of sergeant.
Following the German invasion of the USSR, Roizen's division retreated eastward. Roizen took part in the Kiev Defense Operation of July-September 1941, and he would later recall that, at this stage, the Soviet defenders of Kiev were much better armed, and were able to inflict greater losses on the German attackers. However, he was trapped in the so-called "Kiev cauldron." He managed to break out of the encirclement and meet with another Red Army unit. He was attached to this division, with which he continued to retreat, and in winter 1941 he took part in the fighting for Kharkiv, where he was taken prisoner by the Germans that December.
Roizen was imprisoned in a POW camp near Zolochiv, north of Kharkiv, from which he and a Russian comrade of his managed to escape in March 1942. The two fugitives joined a Soviet partisan unit that subjected them to a thorough screening. Roizen concealed his Jewish identity both at the POW camp and among the partisans. He had blond hair, and evoked no suspicions among either the Germans or the partisans. After the screening, the partisans gave the two new recruits their first military assignment. While the two were carrying it out, they were caught by the Germans and sent to a camp in Lubny, in northeastern Ukraine. In the Lubny camp, they were identified as former partisans, interrogated, subjected to beatings and tortures, and sentenced to death by hanging. On the night before the execution, Roizen escaped from prison. He continued to wander through the area and met another fugitive Russian POW. The two then decided that it was pointless to seek out partisan units; instead, they should try to cross over to the Soviet side.
They crossed the frontline in May 1943, and were given a warm welcome by a Soviet division that was to take part in the Kursk Salient operation. However, a short time later they were detained by the SMERSh – the Red Army's counter-intelligence agency. In the SMERSh prison, Roizen was interrogated and beaten for nine days, similar to the way he had been treated in the German camp. His assertion that he was Jewish, and therefore could not be a German spy, made no impression on his interrogators. He was sent to a prison in the recently liberated Kursk, and in November 1943 he was sentenced to five years of hard labor and sent to a GULAG camp in Vorkuta. Roizen would say in his interview 2 that the Soviet camp was as bad as the German one, and in one respect it was even worse: The Nazi camps and prisons were located in Ukraine, with its mild climate, while the Vorkuta camp was in the Arctic region. Roizen worked as a miner in a coal mine. Hundreds of inmates were dying in the Vorkuta prison mines, because of starvation and unsafe labor conditions. Roizen would have died, as well, if not for a fellow Jewish prisoner, an engineer, who was able to secure an easier job for the "educated" inmate Roizen.
In December 1946, Roizen was unexpectedly released, and even rehabilitated, since there was no evidence of criminal behavior in his wartime past. He came back to Moscow, only to learn that his father had died of a heart attack after receiving a notice saying that his eldest son had been killed in action (Iefim was already listed as missing), while his mother had committed suicide.
In the late 1940s, Roizen settled in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. He worked as a sports teacher at schools and a sports trainer.