Maria Perich was born in 1919 in a Krymchak Jewish family living in Kerch, and her birth name was Maria Gurdji. Her parents had moved to Kerch from Karasu-Bazar (present-day Bilohirsk, Crimea) before her birth. Her father Gat Gurdji, a veteran of World War I, was a semiliterate cobbler, while her mother was completely illiterate. The family was Russian-speaking, but traditional: they observed the Jewish dietary laws (kashrut), the Sabbath, etc. Maria finished seven classes and completed a bookkeeping course. Before the Soviet-German War, she worked as a bookkeeper at a shoe factory, and later worked in the same capacity at the Kerch Ship Repair Plant.
In June 1941, the Soviet-German War broke out. The Germans occupied Kerch for the first time on November 16, and Maria remained in the city for the 45 days of the first German occupation. She survived the massacre of the local Ashkenazi Jews in the Bagerovo Trench near Kerch on December 1-3, 1941. On December 31, several days before the planned Nazi murder of the Krymchak Jews, Kerch was liberated by the Red Army. Under the Soviets, Maria even went back to working at the Ship Repair Plant. However, the Germans reoccupied Kerch in May 1942. With great difficulty, Maria managed to cross the Strait of Kerch to the North Caucasus on the day before the second German occupation of the Kerch Peninsula.
After her evacuation from the Crimea, Maria Gurdji settled in the Kuban area, and in July 1942 she was drafted into the Red Army. She was assigned as a scribe to the 31st Separate Road Maintenance Battalion, and was later attached to the 2nd Belorussian Front, in the rank of private. In reality, Maria's job was registering and keeping track of the battalion property. The battalion followed the frontline fighting units during Red Army offensives, and on numerous occasions Maria took part in road repairs as a common worker. With this battalion, Maria saw action in the North Caucasus, and later in Ukraine and Poland, ending the war in Stettin in May 1945. She was awarded the medals "For the Defense of the Caucasus" and "For Battle Merit." In 1945, she was discharged from the army.
After the war, Maria Gurdji returned in Kerch. In 1947, she married Moisei (Moshe) Perich, a fellow Krymchak and a veteran of the Soviet-German War.