Mikhail Faiman was born in 1918 in the town of Pokrov, 100 kilometers northeast of Moscow. His parents died when he was not yet ten, and Mikhail was brought up by his father's relatives. The area where he grew up and attended school was populated by Tatars, a religiously Muslim, Turkic-speaking people, and Mikhail spoke the Tatar language from childhood. This fact would save his life in the summer of 1941, when he was taken prisoner by the Germans. In 1933, Mikhail moved to Moscow, where he worked at a factory.
In January 1940, Mikhail Faiman was drafted into the Red Army. He was attached to a unit that trained dogs (for sanitary and communication purposes) and carrier pigeons. The outbreak of the Soviet-German War found him on the new Soviet-Romanian border (which had shifted westward in June 1940, following the Soviet annexation of the Romanian province of Bessarabia). On the eighth day of the defense of the Pruth River, Faiman's regiment retreated. Mikhail was separated from his unit and taken in by another Red Army unit, the 10th Separate Battalion of the 30th Rifle Division. This battalion was operating in various sectors of the Southern Front, and it acted as a sabotage group in areas that the Soviets were about to abandon to the enemy. On August 30, 1941, while preparing to cross the Dnieper River in the area of Kakhovka (the evacuation of the Kakhovka bridgehead), Faiman was seriously wounded and captured by the advancing German Army. Despite his wounds, he had to march 120 kilometers with a column of other POWs, to a German POW camp that had been set up in the area of a destroyed ship repair plant. The Germans did not bother to make a thorough check of the "racial origins" of the inmates in this camp. Faiman reported that he was a Tatar, and was left in peace.
After a month at the camp, Faiman and a fellow inmate, a Russian soldier, managed to escape. They came to the village of Yavkine, where they spent three months at a local hospital. The fingers of Faiman's right hand had been amputated back at the German Revier, the POW camp hospital. Now, he received more thorough medical treatment. As a man used to working with animals, he was employed as a herdsman. In mid-1942, some peasant denounced him as a Jew to the Germans, and Faiman had to escape to another village, where he performed the same job. In early 1944, the Germans, anticipating their retreat, ordered Faiman to drive the local cattle to Odessa, from where they would be able to take it to Germany. In May 1944, Faiman was liberated by Red Army troops entering Odessa.
Faiman was deemed unfit for service, and he was not drafted again. However, as a former POW, he was banned from entering Moscow. He continued to herd cattle in the same Ukrainian village that he had left in 1944. Only in the 1950s was he able to return to Moscow.
Mikhail's older brother, Solomon Faiman, was killed in action in Voronezh in July 1942.
In 1991, Faiman immigrated to the USA and settled in Philadelphia.