Faiga was one of nine children born to religious Jewish parents in Starachowice, a town in east-central Poland. Their small one-story house served as both the family's residence and their tailor shop. Faiga worked in the shop sewing women's clothes; the tailoring was often done in exchange for goods such as firewood or a sack of potatoes.
1933-39: In 1935 Faiga married Haskel Ochervitch. She moved to Kielce, a larger town some 25 miles southwest of Starachowice, where her husband worked selling meat to the Polish army. The couple had one daughter before Haskel emigrated to America in the late 1930s. He purchased a shoe factory in New York City. When he sent for Faiga and his daughter to join him, World War II had already erupted, making emigration impossible. Faiga had to remain in Poland.
1940-45: Faiga and her daughter returned to Starachowice and lived with Faiga's family under the German occupation. In October 1942 SS guards forced the town's Jews into the marketplace. Faiga, who was already a forced laborer at a nearby factory, was lined up with the "able-bodied" workers. Her mother and daughter were selected for deportation together with others who were young or elderly. Faiga was marched with others to a nearby forced-labor camp, where prisoners made German uniforms.