Iosif Kvasha was born in 1920 in Medzhibozh, Ukraine. Early in July, 1941 he was drafted into the Red Army and immediately sent to the front lines. He was wounded on August 2. After he recovered, he studied at a school for artillery officers. In 1943, with the rank of senior lieutenant, he acted as the commander of a platoon that directed the fire of an artillery division, then as commander of a battery. Finally, at the end of the war, Captain Kvasha was commander of a division. For his military accomplishments on the Leningrad, Briansk, and Belorussian Fronts Kvasha was awarded the Orders of the Red Star, the Patriotic War, 1st class, and the Red Banner.
After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Iosif Kvasha left Russia. He immigrated to the United States, where he lived in Boston.
He died in 2005.
Iosif Kvasha's Interview
In an interview given in the first years of the 21st century Kvasha said:
"You know what I think? The war years were the purest years of my life. Before the war, nobody cared about anyone else's nationality. If a person did his job well, he was a good man, and if he didn't he was a bad man, and it didn't not matter who or what he was….
I was the commander of an artillery battery, and there were four officers under me. So once, the commander of the division, being slightly drunk, says to me, 'You know what? I'll make it an all-Jewish battery. I'll give you another Jewish officer.' I asked him not to do that.… I thought it was a terrible idea, to accentuate the number of Jewish officers in a single battery.'...
The only way I ever understood my Jewishness was to always do my very best - to serve, fight, work so that nobody could say I don't do my job well, so that I would cast no shadow on my people, that's how I understood being Jewish."
From: Zvi Gitelman, "Afterward: Soviet Jews in World War II: Experience, Perception and Interpretation," in Harriet Murav and Gennady Estraikh, eds., Soviet Jews in World War II: Fighting, Witnessing, Remembering,Boston: Academic Studies Press, 2014, p. 111.