Lia and her twin sister, Mia, were the daughters of Evelina (Wender) and Adolf Borak. They lived in the city of Lvov, in eastern Poland. Their father had been a very wealthy landowner who lost much of his money before the war. The family was still well off, however, and they lived in a comfortable villa in a suburb of the city. The two girls were always dressed in pretty clothes, and had many toys and dolls. They were fraternal twins, and could be easily told apart because Mia wore glasses and had lighter hair.
Lvov had a thriving Jewish community in 1939. It was home to a Jewish population of 110,000, and was a center of culture, education and political activity.
The Germans occupied Lvov on June 30, 1941, and immediately began murdering Jews. During four days of horrible antisemitic rioting, over 4,000 Jews were killed. Soon after, all Jews age fourteen and above were forced to wear the yellow star. Over the next few months, Jewish property was plundered, Jews were sent to forced labor, synagogues were burned down, and Jewish cemeteries were desecrated.
In December 1941, the Germans forced the Jews of Lvov into a closed-off ghetto. During the move, over 5,000 elderly and sick Jews were murdered. Conditions in the ghetto were horrendous. There was terrible overcrowding and little food or sanitation. That winter, the Germans began sending Jews to labor camps, where they were worked to death. After March 1942, the Germans began rounding up Jews and sending them to the Belzec death camp. Only those working in factories that performed essential functions for the German military were to be spared. In January 1943, the ghetto officially became a labor camp. Now the Germans began murdering Jews at their places of work. On June 1, 1943, a final round up of the Jews in the ghetto was begun. German and Ukrainian police units surrounded the ghetto, blocking all exits. Other units were sent into ghetto to capture the remaining inhabitants. When they met resistance, the Germans blew up buildings or set them afire. The 7,000 Jews they forced out of hiding were immediately shot.