Lev Z. Kopelev was born in Kiev, Ukraine, to a middle-class Jewish family. In 1926, his family moved to Kharkov, and he attended Kharkov State University. He studied German language and literature at the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Languages and earned a Ph.D. at the Moscow Institute of Philosophy, Literature and History. He was an idealistic Communist for many years. With the outbreak of World War II, he volunteered for the Red Army; with his perfect German, he served as an interpreter and propaganda officer with front-line troops. In 1945, after he criticized and tried to prevent Russian atrocities against German civilians, he was arrested and sent to the Gulag for 10 years. There he met Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who used him as the model for Rubin in his book The First Circle (1968). After his release, Kopelev married Raisa D. Orlova, a a scholar of American literature, and taught in the Moscow Institute of Polygraphy and the Institute of History of Arts. He became a human rights activist, and was fired from his job and expelled from the Communist Party and the Writers' Union for protesting the persecution of dissidents and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. His books were distributed via samizdat (secret underground publishing) and smuggled out of Russia to be published in the West. In 1983, he and Orlova were stripped of their Soviet citizenship and permanently barred from their native country. Thereafter, they lived in West Germany. His memoirs were published in English as Ease My Sorrows (1983).