Isaac Shkolyar was born in 1913 in the town of Starokonstantinov (present-day Starokostiantyniv, Ukraine), in a Jewish family.
The parents of Isaac's mother, Sima, were millers. They rented a mill in Starokonstantinov, and the entire family worked there. Isaac finished a Jewish school in Starokonstantinov.
In the 1930s, the Shkolyars moved to Odessa. Wishing to carry on the family business, Isaac (who had by that point changed his name to the similar-sounding, but less obviously Jewish, Ilya) enrolled in the Odessa Institute of Flour Milling and Grain Elevators. During his studies at the Institute, Ilya Shkolyar fell victim to a denunciation, which accused him of concealing his true identity: Allegedly, he was Isaac, the grandson of bourgeois exploiters who used to own a mill before the 1917 Revolution. He was condemned at a specially convened gathering, and expelled from the Institute. His sister Malka, who was a student at a medical institute at the time, quit her studies on her own initiative, fearing that she might be subjected to a similar humiliation.
Only after Ilya Shkolyar had made a trip to Starokonstantinov and brought back documents and eyewitness testimonies proving that his family had actually rented the mill, and that only members of the family had been employed there (i.e., they had not exploited the labor of others), was he allowed to resume his studies at the Institute.
In late June 1941, when Nazi Germany invaded the USSR, Ilya Shkolyar was called up to serve in the Red Army. He served throughout the war as a medical orderly, carrying wounded soldiers from the battlefield and evacuating them. Shkolyar was seriously wounded at the very beginning of the war, in October 1941, but he returned to frontline duty after recovering. He met V-E Day in Berlin, and was awarded medals for his service. Curiously, Shkolyar's award documents give his nationality as "Russian", even though he never changed his Jewish nationality.
After the end of the war, Ilya Shkolyar returned to Odessa, where he worked as an industrial engineer at a mill until his retirement. After retiring, Ilya worked as chief engineer at a housing management office.
Ilya (Isaac) Shkolyar died in 1990 in Odessa.