Mendel Gorelik was born in 1926 in Lelchitsy, southern Belorussia (Polesia), as the second of five children. He was able to finish only five classes of school before the outbreak of the Soviet-German War in June1941. In the 1930s, Mendel's father Shleime (Solomon) was arrested and spent five years in jail. Therefore, when the war began, he, as a former prisoner, was mobilized into the "labor army" and could not help his family escape from Polesia. While his elder son, Moisei, was able to flee, the rest of the family remained under German occupation in the town of Lelchitsy.
In winter 1941, when the Germans began to murder the Jewish population of Lelchitsy, Mendel managed to escape from a column of doomed Jews, and was sheltered by the family of the Belorussian peasant Ivan Belotskii (in 1994, Belotskii and his family were posthumously honored as Righteous among the Nations by Yad Vashem). The Nazis killed Mendel's mother, two sisters, and a brother. In late 1942, Mendel left the house of the Belotskiis and joined the Soviet "Nikita Khrushchev" partisan unit. With this unit, he fought against the occupiers as a rifleman until the liberation of this part of Polesia by the Red Army in January 1944. He was awarded two medals, including "To the Partisan of the Patriotic War", 1st class, and the Order of the Red Star.
Having gone through all the formalities involved in the disbanding of the partisan unit, Mendel Gorelik came back to Lelchitsy. Ivan Belotskii gave him the address of his father. Solomon lived in Moscow at the time, working at a military factory. Mendel wrote to his father, informing him that he was the only survivor of their family that had remained in the town, and relating his exploits as a partisan. Solomon forwarded this letter to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, asking them to publish an article on his son (the article was prepared). In summer 1944, Mendel, who had just turned 18, volunteered for the Red Army, convinced that his revenge for the murder of his family was not yet complete. After a short training course for machine gunners, sergeant Gorelik (when registering in the Red Army, he changed his first name to "Mikhail") was sent to Hungary, where he took part in the capture of Budapest, among other engagements. Here, Gorelik was seriously wounded. He was awarded the medals "For the Capture of Budapest" and "For the Victory over Germany".
After the war, Mikhail (Mendel) Gorelik continued his service in the Red Army; he would not be discharged until 1950. His brother Moisei attended an officers' school in Central Asia and served as an officer throughout the war. After 1950, Mendel Gorelik was reunited with his father and elder brother in Minsk.
In the 1980s, Gorelik and his family immigrated to the USA; they have since lived in New York City.