Iulii Rafilovich was born in Odessa in 1923 as Iulii Rafalovich. In 1929, the family returned to its ancestral hometown of Bar. His father Meier was a veteran of World War I and the Russian Civil War (1919-20); he worked in trade. Iulii's mother Ester was a seamstress. After the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in June 1941, the Rafalovich family failed to evacuate, and remained under German, and later Romanian, occupation. Iulii survived the final massacre of the Jews of Bar in October 1942 (when the town was under German occupation) and managed to go over to the Zhmerinka Ghetto (which was administered by the Romanians).
The town of Zhmerinka was liberated by the Red Army on March 18, 1944. Iulii immediately joined the Soviet division that had taken over the town, and, without officially enlisting, he took part in the liberation of nearby Bar. He would later say [YVA O.93/19351] that he was one of the first Soviet combatants to enter the town of Bar. While in Bar, Iulii went to the local office of the NKVD (the Soviet political police, a precursor of the KGB) and asked to be assigned to the unit that was to guard arrested local Nazi collaborators – after all, Iulii lacked formal military training. He was enlisted, along with some other young Jews who had survived the German occupation of Bar. The most notorious of the collaborators was Vladimir Koliveprik, a former school teacher who had served as the head of the Nazi administration of Bar. Being an antisemite and a sadist, Koliveprik had been present at the final massacre of the town's Jews – not in any official capacity, but solely for his personal pleasure. A week after the liberation, Koliveprik was arrested and brought to Bar. The chief of the town's NKVD forbade all the Jews serving in the unit to come near Koliveprik. However, taking advantage of a moment when the NKVD chief was drunk, four Jewish members of the unit opened the door of Koliveprik's cell and beat the collaborator severely. The NKVD chief heard the cries, broke into the cell, fired into the air, and yelled: 'Stop what you are doing! He must stand trial!'1 The four intruders were not punished in any way. Koliveprik was subsequently tried and hanged.
Sometime later, Iulii volunteered to serve in the Red Army. It was during the enlistment that he changed his last name from Rafalovich to Rafilovich, since the latter variant sounded "less Jewish". He underwent training in the 134th Reserve Regiment, and four months later he was assigned to the 100th Tank Regiment. With this unit, he took part in the Jassy–Kishinev operation in August 1944. His regiment was then transferred to the 3rd Ukrainian Front, and Iulii saw action in eastern Galicia. He met V-E Day in a Polish village. Later, Rafilovich also took part in the war against Japan in the Far East. In 1946, he was transferred to Iran, and took part in the evacuation of Soviet military hardware from that country.
After his discharge from the army, Rafilovich graduated from an institute of foreign languages and went on to work as a teacher in Derbent (Dagestan, Russia) and Baku (Azerbaijan). In 1990, he immigrated to Israel with his family.
- 1. [YVA O.93/19351].