Solomon Skvirskii was born in 1917 in Ekaterinoslav (later Dnepropetrovsk, now Dnipro) into a traditional Jewish family. His grandfather Iakov was very religious, unfailingly celebrating the Sabbath and holidays, and sometimes taking Solomon with him to synagogue. Solomon's father Leopold visited synagogue mainly to hear good cantors, and he took Solomon with him on those occasions. During the NEP (The New Economic Policy, 1921-1928) Leopold, a bookkeeper by profession, became well off, a NEPman, or new Soviet "capitalist." Solomon recalled the 1920s as years of abundance for his family. After the Soviet authorities had terminated the NEP, in 1933 Solomon's father was arrested. Fortunately, he was freed within a short time. In 1936, Solomon Skvirskii entered the Dnepropetrovsk Institute for Transport Engineers and, in 1941, graduated with a specialty in bridge construction. Two days before the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, he defended his diploma project at the Institute.
With the beginning of the Soviet-German war, Skvirskii volunteered for the Red Army. He was sent to the Moscow Region, where, as an engineer, he was sent to sapper and engineering courses at the Academy of Military Engineering in Nakhabino, near Moscow. In October 1941 Skvirskii was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and assigned to a detachment that put up obstacles to tanks and infantry. He took part in the defense of Moscow, mining bridges and roads that were threatened by the enemy advance and constructing barriers in the city itself.
In 1942, Skvirskii served as a sapper on the Northwestern Front, fighting in the area of Novgorod, in northwest Russia. He was awarded his first order, the Order of the Red Star, in September 1942, during a difficult period for the Red Army, when military awards were rarely given. After the liberation of Pskov (in Russia close to the border with Estonia), in July 1944, he was awarded his second order, the Order of the Patriotic War. In the summer of that year, Captain Skvirskii fought in Estonia and Latvia. At that time, his job was not to mine but to clear away enemy mines to help Soviet tanks and infantry advance. His unit also had to construct temporary bridges, to transport across rivers ammunition and sometimes food, and to evacuate damaged Soviet tanks – all under enemy fire. During these operations he was wounded twice.
In additon, Skvirskii was a volunteer front-line correspondent who sent reports on developments at his sector to the military newspaper Vperiod, na zapad! (Forward, Westward!).
In May 1945 Skvirskii took part in the victory parade in Red Square in Moscow.
After the war, Skvirskii worked as a construction engineer, mainly in Soviet Central Asia and in the Northern Caucasus. In 1990, he emigrated from the USSR and settled in the USA, where he had relatives. Solomon Skvirskii had kept this fact secret until perestroika (the liberalization of the late 1980s). His son Aleksandr had moved to the USA two years earlier. Solomon lived in West Hollywood, where he was active in the Los Angeles Association of Veterans of World War II from the former Soviet Union. He died in 1999 at the age of 81.
On wartime antisemitism
"One day, after I had carried out a dangerous and difficult combat assignment at the front, the commander of the regiment thanked me and said with a degree of surprise 'Are you really Abram?'
' No' I responded 'My name is Solomon.'
' What difference does that make? ' he muttered.
There was no sense in arguing with this covert antisemite."
(Solomon Skvirskii, God rozhdeniia 1917, Los Angeles, 1997, p. 10)