Born in Uman, Ukraine in 1919, Pauline was the middle of 5 children in the well-respected Rachman household. Her father, Levy, was a local commodities broker. He bought wheat and other products from local producers and sold them to consumers. He also traded in currency. The family’s relative prosperity in Uman was easily identified by the presence of an occasionally working electric light in their house. They also owned a milk cow.
By 1933, Stalin had collectivized the local farms and closed down all local Jewish institutions. Levy was briefly arrested for the crimes of capitalism and speculation. The synagogue was shuttered and Pauline proudly recalled how the Torah was entrusted to her father for safe keeping. As the Communist policies took hold, farm production diminished and severe famine set in. People died of hunger daily and Pauline recalled schoolmates dying from hunger.
Pauline was a weak student and her parents thought it best to send her to Moscow to live with relatives. There would be one less mouth to feed and perhaps she would be able to work and help support the family. By 1942, Pauline learned that her older brother, David, had died in the Soviet Army and the rest of her entire family had been murdered by the Nazi Einzaztgruppen during their occupation of Uman.
Pauline worked throughout the war in a number of Soviet labor camps including a lumber operation in Siberia. She seemed to have a knack for numbers and often worked as an accounting clerk. In 1943, she was relocated to Stalingrad where she met and eventually married Judel Schuster.
After the war, with the help of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, they traveled westward in search of Judel’s relatives. They ultimately reunited with Judel’s brother Itzhak in a displaced persons camp in Italy. After 2 1/2 years in the DP camp they were given permission to immigrate to the United States.
They arrived in the U.S. in December 1949 with their first baby, Larry, in tow. Pauline raised 3 children and lived to see 7 grandchildren. She died in 2011 in Birmingham, Alabama.