Mikhail Vainshtein was born in 1926 in Ostropol, Ukraine. In 1930, the family moved to Starokonstantinov, where Mikhail's father was appointed the manager of a mill. In 1932, his father was arrested by the GPU (Soviet political police) and disappeared in the GULAG. Only after the war did the family learn that he had died in a camp in 1941, shortly before the Soviet-German war.
With the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, the military authorities of Starokonstantinov ordered all men of the town born between 1905 and 1925 to report to be sent to the regional center (Kamenets-Podolskii) to be mobilized into the Red Army. Mikhail's mother advised her son to report and to declare that he was born in 1925. In this way Vainshtein joined the group of 950 men who were sent to Kamenets-Podolskii. From this location, which was then close to the frontlines, the young people were sent to Poltava. Out of 950 men, only 180 (including Vainshtein) arrived in the city. The rest were either killed in German air raids or escaped from the column and returned home.
In Poltava, Vainshtein was not mobilized for army service: the recruits who were born in 1924 or 1925 were sent to work in agriculture. At the beginning of the winter of 1941, Mikhail was sent to a kolkhoz in the Lower Volga region. He worked as a mechanic in the kolkhoz garage, where he learned to repair and to drive tractors.
In 1943 Vainshtein was finally drafted into the Red Army and was sent to a tank school. Later in this year, he was assigned to a tank brigade, which was sent to liberate Belorussia. He served as a charger in a tank. In October 1943, he was wounded in a burning tank. Following this, Vainshtein lost his hearing in one ear, but returned to the front as a loader for anti-tank artillery. Later, he returned to the tank forces. Vainshtein took part in the liberation of Vitebsk, Belorussia in June 1944, and then in the capture of Lithuania and of Danzig and Stettin in Germany. He once again suffered contusions in a burning tank. Vainshtein ended the war in Wismar, where he celebrated the victory with some American soldiers.
Vainshtein was awarded two medals For Courage and one - For Battle Merit, as well other awards for the capture of specific cities and areas.
Upon his demobilization, Vainshtein visited Starokonstantinov only to learn that his mother and 74 members of his extended family were killed in 1943, together with the other Jews of this town and of nearby Ostropol.
After the war, Vainshein settled in Leningrad (St Petersburg), graduated from a technical institute and, until 1998, worked as an engineer. As of 2016, he is still living in St. Petersburg.