Moisei Zelmanovich Fish was born in March, 1922 in Rivne. His father was known as Zalmen der Miler (b. 1883 in Koloniya Olizarka), since he worked as a house-builder and brick-layer. His mother, Khaye bas Yoyne, was born in 1887 in Zholuds'k, a nearby town. The family moved to Rivne at the start of World War I in 1914.
Fish's mother was a housewife and raised the family's five children, of whom Moisei was the youngest. This whole family was killed in the early years of World War II, as were most of the approximately one hundred relatives Fish had before the war.
Fish started going to a kheyder (religious school for young boys) at 3.5 years of age and continued until age five. At the age of five-six years, Moisei's father got him a private teacher, who for an hour a day in the afternoon would teach him how to pray. At the age of seven, he began to attend a "shule", a Polish-language Jewish school, and continued for seven years. After 7th grade, at the age of thirteen, Fish entered a Polish-language Jewish gymnasium, which he finished in 1939, three months before the war. In the 1930s, Fish participated in Shomer Akiva, a socialist youth group. After graduating from the gymnasium, Fish worked for two months until the war broke out .
When the war started, Fish ran on foot to Kotsk at the former Soviet-Polish border, eventually being able to evacuate to the Russian interior and later to Kazakhstan. There, he worked in rice fields, and then in the bookkeeping office in a Korean kolkhoz. He tried to join the army, but he was sent back because he was a former Polish citizen and did not speak Russian well. He moved to Stalingrad and worked in a war-factory for two months. Finally in 1942 he was mobilized and sent to the front. Fish fought in Belarus, Poland, Germany, where he was wounded in the leg by grenade shrapnel, and the Far East.
After the war, he completed a Soviet accounting institute. Fish moved back to Rivne in 1946 and found a job as the head accountant in a restaurant, where he worked until 1982. In 1946, Fish married Ida Lakir, a Jewish woman from Kalinindorf, one of the Joint-supported Soviet Jewish kolkhozes. They had three sons. Fish and his wife prepared to immigrate to Israel, but could not go in the end because of his wife's health. Fish has been involved with the local religious community since 1995, where he serves as a leader/cantor [gabe un khazn].
Photographer: Artur Frątczak