Both of Charlene's parents were local Jewish community leaders, and the family was active in community life. Charlene's father was a professor of philosophy at the State University of Lvov. World War II began with the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Charlene's town was in the part of eastern Poland occupied by the Soviet Union under the German-Soviet Pact of August 1939. Under the Soviet occupation, the family remained in its home and Charlene's father continued to teach. The Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, and arrested Charlene's father after they occupied the town. She never saw him again. Charlene, her mother, and sister were forced into a ghetto the Germans established in Horochow. In 1942, Charlene and her mother fled from the ghetto after hearing rumors that the Germans were about to destroy it. Her sister attempted to hide separately, but was never heard from again. Charlene and her mother hid in underbrush at the river's edge, and avoided discovery by submerging themselves in the water for part of the time. They hid for several days. One day, Charlene awoke to find that her mother had disappeared. Charlene survived by herself in the forests near Horochow, and was liberated by Soviet troops. She eventually immigrated to the United States.
I was liberated by the, by the Russians, by the Soviet Union soldiers. Again, I was in one of my little graves, and I was very ill, I don't know how long, but it was the spring of, um...it was spring, I don't remember, and there I was and all of a sudden, uh, somebody was shaking me, and there were these two, I saw two pair of boots. That's what I saw from my vantage point. And these were two Russian soldiers, and they kept saying, "Devushka" [young woman], and I finally, they shook me, and I, I finally woke up, and I was very ill, and they took me to a military hospital. They were, you see, they were still--the, the war was still going on and they, those were the front lines, and they happened to stumble upon me. They were very kind to me. They nursed me back to health. I was in several different hospitals with them. And, uh, it was an act of mercy, in a way, and I cannot adequately describe how gentle and kind they were to me. I hear other stories and I'm sorry I cannot verify them. To me they were very good and they were my liberators, and I'll be forever grateful.