Polina Shapiro was born in 1916 in Berdichev. Her father Isai was an accountant, while her mother Sarah was head teacher at a kindergarten. After completing school, Polina enrolled in a medical institute in her native city.
In 1937, during the "Great Purge" in the USSR, Polina's father was arrested, and executed shortly thereafter. Nevertheless, Polina was allowed to continue studying and working.
Following the Nazi invasion of the USSR in late June 1941, Polina Shapiro was drafted into the Red Army. She was on frontline duty from the first days of the war, serving as a senior operating nurse. Throughout her tour of duty, she performed or assisted at a total of more than 2000 surgeries.
In 1943, the unit in which Polina served was deployed to the area of Leningrad, near the settlement of Mga, which was the site of lengthy battles of attrition, involving massive losses for the Red Army. Only in late January 1944 were the Germans finally driven out of Mga.
Polina Shapiro was killed in action in May 1943.