Isaak Virozub was born in 1917 in Kiev. In 1936, he entered the Kiev Medical Institute (University) as a student. Isaak would study at the Institute in the mornings and afternoons, and work as a metalworker in the evenings. On June 20, 1941, two days before the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Virozub passed his last exam, and was looking forward to postgraduate studies in the field of surgery. However, he was drafted into the Red Army on June 27, 1941. After a brief transitional period, Virozub was attached as a physician to the 10th Communication Regiment, which was stationed in Lubny, 200 kilometers east of Kiev. On September 1, he was allowed to go to Kiev and bring his wife, Sara Zelmans, to Lubny.
Several days after his return to Lubny with his wife, the town was surrounded by the German army. Isaak and Sara found themselves behind German lines, and only by some miracle they avoided being captured as POWs. They exchanged their Red Army uniforms for civilian clothing, and this let them wander through Ukraine and southwestern Russia. Isaak Virozub “amended” the name listed in his ID documents and became Ivan Virozub. A former fellow student (an ethnic Ukrainian) gave Sara Zelmans her documents, turning her into Galina Dziuba. Both the husband and the wife knew Ukrainian. The only thing that could have given away Isaak's Jewish identity was his curly hair, and he was thus forced to shave his head. At this stage, they already knew about the massacre of the Jews of Kiev at Babi Yar, which had been perpetrated by the Germans on September 28-29, 1941. Isaak was particularly shocked to see that the local Ukrainian population greeted news of this massacre with open satisfaction.
Isaak Virozub and Sara Zelmans decided to go eastward, to the Bryansk forests in western Russia, where partisans were active at the time. On the way, they gave medical assistance to the peasants in the villages, but almost every time they would be denounced as Jews by some locals and forced to flee. In May-June 1942, in an area west of Bryansk, Isaak and Sara were adopted by the “Smert’ nemetskim okkupantam” (lit. Death to the German Invaders) partisan brigade. Isaak and Sara decided to maintain their non-Jewish aliases even among the Soviet partisans, and until the end of the war they fought as Ivan and Galina.
In September 1943, Isaak and Sara encountered a reconnaissance unit of the Red Army. The advancing Soviet troops took them on as doctors and gave them a permit to travel to Moscow for a few days. From Moscow, they were to go Saratov on the lower Volga, where new regiments were being formed. The local authorities in Saratov wished to retain these two physicians, employing them in the area. Isaak refused, arguing that he wanted to take part in the liberation of Kiev. The local voyenkomat (recruitment office) supported him, and thus Isaak and Sara were dispatched to the 1st Belorussian Front. There, they were attached to the 29th Reserve Regiment, which was staffed by persons of ill repute, such as criminals and former Nazi collaborators. Isaak and Sara, as physicians and decorated former partisans, felt humiliated. However, after a month-long screening period they were transferred to the 65th Army, where they were to serve at a frontline medsanbat (medical-sanitary battalion), rather than at a hospital further away from the front lines. Their medsanbat was later attached to the 172nd “Pavlograd” Division, which was operating on the 1st Ukrainian Front; with this division, Isaak and Sara fought on until the end of the war.
While on a brief leave, Isaak visited Kiev and learned that his sister and her children had been killed in Babi Yar; they had been denounced by her ethnic Polish in-laws. Once again, he was stunned by the willingness of some non-Jews to betray their Jewish relatives to the Nazis.
With the 172nd Division, Isaak and Sara took part in the liberation of western Ukraine, saw action in Poland, crossed the Vistula and Oder Rivers in winter 1945, and participated in the Battle of Berlin. Finally, on May 9-11, they took part in the liberation of Prague, where some units of the Wehrmacht refused to lay down their arms and continued their resistance even after the capitulation of Nazi Germany.
During his service in the Red Army, Captain of Medical Services Isaak Virozub, a surgeon of the 224th Separate Medsanbat, was awarded two Orders of the Red Star and a number of medals. Senior Lieutenant Sara Zelmans, who was an internist in the same medsanbat, was awarded the Order of the Red Star and the medal “For Battle Merit”.
As a Red Army serviceman, Isaak Virozub was shocked at the extent of antisemitism, including official antisemitism, in the Soviet ranks. He spoke with Polish Jewish survivors and noted that the percentage of non-Jews who had helped Jews in Poland was conspicuously higher than in Ukraine.
In 1945, the two military doctors were discharged from the army: first Sara, then Isaak. In the “peaceful” postwar Ukraine, they were once again confronted with antisemitism, of both the official and the "grassroots" varieties. For a long time, Sara was unable to find employment. In the meantime, Isaak was hired to work at a neurosurgery clinic that had recently been opened in Kiev. In 1958-1989, he headed the neurosurgery clinic in Donetsk (eastern Ukraine), which had been modeled on the one in Kiev.
In 1989, Professor Virozub and his wife moved to Israel and settled in Jerusalem. Isaak Virozub died in 1992; Sara Zelmans died in 2003.