Lev Adaskin was born in 1924 in Smolensk, which lay outside the former Pale of Settlement. The family later moved to Kuntsevo in Moscow Oblast (now part of Moscow proper). His parents worked at a factory in the city.This was a rather common phenomenon: Moscow, which had become a major magnet for migrants, was suffering from an acute housing shortage in those years, and many Jews settled in the small satellite towns surrounding the capital.
At the time of the Nazi invasion of the USSR in late June 1941, Lev Adaskin had just completed the ninth grade.
The factory at which his parents worked was evacuated to Sverdlovsk (present-day Yekaterinburg),and the whole family found itself in this city in the Urals, which became a major center for the evacuees during the war. Dozens of large and mid-sized factories from Ukraine and western Russia were relocated there. In wartime conditions, these factories produced armored vehicles and clothing for soldiers.
Lev Adaskin became a mechanic at a local factory, obtainingan exemption from military service to work in the rear. However, his burning patriotism urged him to fight the enemy on the battlefield. Therefore, in autumn 1942 Lev Adaskin enrolled in an infantry school, quickly completing a crash training course. In January 1943, Lev found himself on the Leningrad Front, which was then the scene of fierce fighting. During the three months that he was able to spend on active duty, Adaskin served as a scout, captured German informants, and repelled enemy assaults.
In late March 1943, Lev was gravely wounded in combat. He lost an eye; his leg was shattered; he was shell-shocked and taken prisoner by the enemy.
At first, he was sent unconscious to Dulag 110, a POW camp located in the town of Porkhov in Pskov Oblast.
Being young and healthy, Adaskin was able to eventually recover. The Soviet medics at the camp had to improvise bandages out of the limited materials at their disposal. Then, together with a group of other young POWs, he was sent to the Majdanek camp in Lublin, Poland.
Since Adaskin's appearance was not stereotypically "Jewish", his German captors failed to identify him as a Jew. Afterward, he would briefly describe the horrors of Majdanek in his letters to the writer Yuri Khazanovich, who would publish a book titled 34 Weeks in Majdanek (1945).
In total, Lev Adaskin spent a little over a year in the brutal conditions of the camp. He survived thanks to his youth and strong constitution – despite a bout of typhus, constant malnutrition, and backbreaking labor in the fields.
In early July 1944, the Lublin area witnessed heavy fighting, and the Red Army approached Majdanek. A group of eight inmates, Lev Adaskin among them, were able to escape under cover of darkness, since the Germans had bombed out the power station. The fugitives were sheltered by a Polish woman, who put herself in grave danger by letting them in. A short while later, they encountered the Red Army. Despite his wish to go on fighting, Adaskin was discharged from the Army on medical grounds, and never saw action again. He returned to Sverdlovsk and resumed working at the same factory.
The Soviet authorities are known to have treated all former POWs with great suspicion at the time, regarding them as traitors. However, Adaskin was largely untouched by the Soviet security organs – either thanks to his Jewishness (since everyone knew that the Nazis would kill all Jews, and this was taken to indicate that he could not possibly have volunteered to serve his captors), or because of the extent of his injuries. Moreover, he was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st Class, and some medals.
Lev Adaskin's postwar fate is unknown.
Yuri Khazanovich on Lev Adaskin
"Whenever I meet Lev Adaskin, I am struck and amazed at the sight of this youngster. The desperate struggle has not aged him, drained his spirit, or cooled his youthful blood. The unconquerable will to live was his only invisible ally. He has emerged victorious. He is brimming with lively, restless, and eager life.
I advised him not to touch the number on his chest. In any case, it will forever remain branded on his heart and memory. The Germans left their exact "address". Our troops have already come calling. And they will do all they can to preserve Lev Adaskin's letters, so that the things endured by this 20-year-old Soviet man will remain a distant and unique past for our descendants."
Yuri Khazanovich, 34 Weeks in Majdanek.1945, p. 27.