Maria Vurgaft was born into a poor Jewish family in 1910 in the village of Mikhailovka, Ukraine. She was brought up in the city of Berdiansk, where she subsequently worked as a leather-worker. Later she completed her high education, apparently in Moscow where she was living when war broke out on June 22, 1941. In April 1942 Vurgaft volunteered to join the Red Army. Having been a member of the Communist Party since 1931, she was assigned to be a political commissar (politruk) with a special women observers' battalion of an anti-aircraft intelligence unit. Her other duties in the battalion included transmitting information about the enemy's position and facilitating communication for the battalion. In August Maria's unit was assigned to Stalingrad.
In late November 1942 during the battle for Stalingrad, with part of a detachment of her battalion, Maria Vurgaft was sent as a political commissar in a field intelligence unit behind enemy's lines. She also served as assistant to the unit's commander. For her missions during the battle for Stalingrad, Vurgaft was awarded the For the Defense of Stalingrad medal. In June 43 Maria was assigned to be the political organizer of another special observer battalion. The article "A Courageous Daughter of Her People" by Efimov, that was prepared for Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, expressed the idea that one of the reasons for Vurgaft's fighting against the Germans was the desire to avenge her Jewish relatives who had been murdered by the Germans: "A sense of unquenchable revenge for her [Jewish] relatives in Ukraine who had disappeared under the heel of the German monsters [i.e. murdered] drives her in battle" (GARF 8114-1-182, copy YVA JM/26152).
In June 1944 Maria Vurgaft was assigned by the political department of the anti-aircraft defense forces to be assistant to the chief-editor of Stalinets an army newspaper. On July 29, 1945 First Lieutenant Maria Vurgaft was awarded the Order of the Red Star for her service during the battle for Stalingrad and for her work on the newspaper's editorial board.