Kim Liakhov was born in 1923 in Odessa. His mother was a typist at a sewing factory. Before the Revolution, his father had been a stockbroker; this did not prevent him from joining the Communist Party after the Revolution. When Kim was six years old, his father abandoned the family. Upon finishing six grades of school, Kim went to work at a factory to support the family.
In June 1941, the Soviet-German War broke out. On the fourth day of the war, Kim was drafted to build fortifications. A month later, his factory was evacuated, but Kim was left behind in Odessa, despite being a factory worker. In October 1941, the city was occupied by the Romanian army. In order to save Liakhov from imminent arrest (his mother had already been arrested by the Romanian authorities, and was later shot), his neighbor took him to the Romanian police station and declared that his father was a Russian. Kim was not circumcised, and the Romanians believed the story; he received a certificate that said "nu est jidan" (he is not a Jew). However, the janitor of the house where Kim lived refused to leave him alone, and he denounced Kim to the police as a Jew. In December 1941, Kim was arrested. In January, he managed to escape from the camp where he was held along with other Jews from Odessa. He wandered through the so-called Transnistria, narrowly escaping being shot on several occasions. At some stage, he found a job at a Romanian-controlled factory.
In March 1944, the area where Kim was staying was liberated by the Red Army, and he was drafted. Liakhov took part in the Jassy-Kishinev operation. There, he was wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans. His not being circumcised saved his life once again. Liakhov's captivity was not long, and in late August 1944 he was liberated by the Red Army. After a brief screening by the SMERSH (a Red Army counter-intelligence agency), he returned to frontline duty. In October 1944, during the battle for Cluj (Kolozsvár, Klausenburg), he was seriously wounded. After spending eight months in a hospital in the Crimea, Liakhov was discharged from active army service. He would later recall 1 that, upon his arrival at the hospital, his attending physician, a Jew, asked him: "Are you Jewish? From Odessa?" After receiving an affirmative reply, she promised that she would do her utmost to make Kim able to walk again.
Liakhov received no military awards for his service.
After the war, Liakhov served in the militsia (police) in Odessa, and later worked as a taxi driver.
In the Red Army, Liakhov was registered as an ethnic Russian – both due to his Romanian "nu est jidan" certificate and because of his Russian-sounding last name. After the war, he maintained his nationality (ethnicity) as "Russian" in his passport (ID document). Although his wife was Jewish, he registered his children as Russians, believing that this would make their lives easier. Nevertheless, when his son decided to marry a non-Jew, Liakhov was shocked, and tried unsuccessfully to dissuade his son from doing that. Being an apolitical person, he did not immigrate to Israel or anywhere else, and ended his days in his native Odessa.
- 1. (YVA O.93/38877)