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.
In 1941, in the summer, all of a sudden we heard bombs and the airplanes flying overhead, and after a few days the Germans marched in very much like the Russians did a few years ago, and again, I mean there was no bloodshed as far as I can recall. They came in with tanks. They came in--the soldiers looked much, they were much, uh, better dressed--and they came in and people again greeted them with flowers, and they were very welcome in our town. A lot of people were very happy that the Germans came in, and that the Russians were leaving. If there were fights, they were outside of the town so really, there was very little fighting in Horochow. But 1941, early summer, was when the world became completely topsy-turvy for the Jews. When the Germans came in, from the very beginning, they concentrated and they let it be known that the Jews are the ones that they are going to try to murder, all of us. What they did, I don't recall if it was the first or second day after they come into, came into Horochow, they went around with a list and they looked for people by name. These were people who were leaders, Jewish leaders, and my beloved father was among them. They came into the house, they burst in, and they asked for him, and my father saw them, he tried to get out the back way. They caught him, and they led him away. He never even said goodbye. I'll never forget that look in his eyes.