The artist Zvi Ribak was born in 1910 in the town of Radomyshl (Zhytomyr Oblast, Ukraine). In 1919, the Jews of Radomyshl suffered from pogroms, which claimed many lives. As it was no longer safe to stay in the town, the Ribak family moved to Kiev, where Zvi began to attend an artist's studio
Once, during a visit to Kiev, Marc Chagall saw some works by the young Zvi. He became interested, contacted the boy's parents, and offered to take him to Paris to study art. However, this offer came to naught.
As an adolescent, Zvi was given the option of making some money by painting portraits of Soviet leaders, but this prospect held no appeal for him. Wishing to acquire a more stable profession, Zvi Ribak tried to enroll in the Kiev Polytechnic Institute, intending to study architecture. However, he was rejected. His attempt to be admitted to the Leningrad Academy of Arts was similarly unsuccessful. Zvi then moved to the Donbas region, where he found a job as an electrician at a coal mine. Later, in the early 1930s, he managed to enroll in the Physical-Technical Institute in Kharkov. There, he studied theoretical physics under the famous Soviet physicist Lev Landau, who would go on to win the Nobel Prize. After graduating from the Institute, Ribak was finally able to resume his art studies, being admitted to the Higher Academy of Progressive Art in Moscow.
Following the Nazi invasion of the USSR in late June 1941, Zvi Ribak volunteered to serve in the Red Army. Despite having no military qualifications, he was filled with the desire for revenge, since his father had been killed during the German occupation of Kiev.
Zvi Ribak took part in the battles for Prague and Warsaw, and he met V-E Day in Berlin. He was one of the Red Army soldiers who occupied the Führerbunker in early May 1945.
In 1948, Zvi Ribak was able to fulfill an old dream and immigrate to Israel, where he took part in the Israeli War of Independence. After its end in 1949, he worked as an engineer, and later as an architect at a firm in Tel Aviv.
In 1952, Zvi Ribak moved to Bnei Brak, becoming the planner of that city. Alongside his architectural work, he remained a prolific painter. The bulk of his works were dedicated to Jewish subjects.
In 1991, the Players Press publishing house issued a book about him, Zvi Ribak: A Jewish Artist, by Jay Weintein.
Zvi Ribak died in Israel in 1994.