Moshe Bar Zvi was born as Misha Milman in 1922 in Satanov, a shtetl in Ukraine on the border with Poland. His family was religiously observant, but only his elder brother Leva (Lev) succeeded in getting an elementary religious education. The other Milman children studied in a Soviet Yiddish school. In 1940, Misha Milman was drafted into the Red Army and served as an infantryman. However, in December of that year he was ordered to "volunteer" to enter the military flight school in Chkalov (now Orenburg) in the Urals.1 Misha went to Chkalov reluctantly (he had hoped that, after the end of his military service, he would join his siblings who had settled in Odessa).
In October 1942, Misha graduated from flight school as a pilot. He was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant and was to be sent to the frontlines. However, all the graduates, including Misha, were suddenly sent for an additional course, to learn how to fly at night. Their second graduation from flight school was in April 1943, but this was not the end of his "studies" either. Milman's air squadron was moved westward from the Urals, and during the following two years, he and his comrades moved from one air base to another, learning to fly new models of aircraft (including the American B-20 bomber) and practicing night bombing raids, etc. Only in November 1944, during the last stage of the war, was his squadron deployed at the front. Milman took part in the bombing of Königsberg, Stettin and, later, also of Berlin.
It was during the period of his studies in 1944 that the decision began to ripen in Milman's mind that he would settle in Palestine if he survived the war.2 After the end of the war, he learned about the scope of the Nazi mass murder of the Jews and witnessed the upsurge of antisemitism in Poland, to which his unit had been temporarily transferred Together, these factors led to his decision to leave the Red Army and the Soviet Union for the Land of Israel. In 1946, Milman succeeded in deserting from the Red Army and fleeing to western Germany. From there he reached France and, in February 1947, he sailed from Sète on board "Lanegev", a ship of Aliya-Bet" the organized illegal immigration to the Land of Israel. However, the ship was intercepted by the British, and Milman, who had adopted the Hebrew name Moshe Bar Zvi, spent a month in a detention camp on Cyprus. After the declaration of independence of Israel, Bar Zvi joined the Israel Defense Army and, as a pilot, took part in the War of Independence.
Of all his family, only one of his sisters, who succeeded in fleeing from Odessa to Central Asia, survived the Holocaust.
Moshe Bar Zvi died in Tel-Aviv in 2001.