Roza Dvorkina was born in 1918 in Smolensk, western Russia, as Roza Rakhel Knerelman. Her parents were Jews from Kishinev who, after the pogrom of 1903, moved from Bessarabia to the Russian Smolensk. Her family was religious. Since the Soviet authorities did not recognize double first names, her double first name had to be shortened to Roza.
In 1936, Roza Knerelman entered the Smolensk Medical Institute (now the Smolensk State Medical University), and in June 1941, when Operation Barbarossa was starting, she received her diploma as a surgeon. The Knerelman family succeeded in fleeing Smolensk; they settled near Ietkul village, 40 kilometers south of Cheliabinsk, the Urals. Roza worked as a surgeon at a miners' "health center" (zdravpunkt). In August 1942 she was drafted into the Red Army and in December 1943 was assigned to a rear hospital of the 4th Ukrainian Front as head of the department of abdominal surgery. She also specialized in the treatment of gas gangrene. Eventually, the then experienced surgeon Senior Lieutenant Roza Dvorkina was transferred to a front hospital, where she performed urgent operations, sometimes under enemy fire. Her citation for a military award notes that 87 percent of the wounded who arrived at her department with gas gangrene were treated successfully.
The 4th Ukrainian Front fought in southern Ukraine, in the Carpathian Mountains, and, at the end of 1944, in Slovakia. Roza Knerelman met Victory Day in Krakow, where she continued to perform complex operations.
She was recommended for the Order of the Red Star, but instead was given the less prestigious medal For Battle Merit.
Sometime in 1945, Roza, who continued to work at the Krakow hospital, travelled to Berlin, where she visited a synagogue. When the rabbi saw this Soviet officer, he asked her in German: "What does the Frau want?" Roza answered in Yiddish that she was Jewish and that her family followed Jewish tradition. The rabbi was touched. He gave her a prayer book and a tallit for her future husband "in gratitude for [her role in] the liberation from the Fascists."1
After the war, in 1946, Roza married Lieutenant-Colonel (in the engineer corps) Bentsion Dvorkin in Kharkov, Ukraine. They had a traditional Jewish marriage ceremony with a chuppah (wedding canopy). After being released from the army (with the rank of captain of medical service), Roza worked as a surgeon.
In 1990 the Dvorkins, including Roza's three children and her grandchildren, immigrated to Israel, where she restored her double first name to Roza Rakhel.
Roza Rakhel Dvorkina died in 2006. She is buried in Lod's New Cemetery.
- 1. Vladlen Karp, Dorogami zhizni I voiny, Jerusalem: Bridge, 2015, p. 70.