Etia Shvartzbroit was born in Mohyliv Podilskyi in 1928. She comes from a religious family -- her grandfather was a Rabbi, and her parents kept a kosher household. Her family was quite wealthy -- they kept two servants and donated generously to the poor. Her mother, however, had trouble having children. When Etia was finally born after 13 years of trying, her mother wanted to make sure that she would grow up healthy.
Etia was, unfortunately, a sickly child -- she had whooping cough and was not responding to treatment. When the cough returned after a treatment with a doctor in Odessa, her parents turned to folk remedies. First, her father attempted to ward off the illness by "giving it away" to various streams in the town. When that did not help, her mother "sold" the child to a widow with many children who was so poor that bad luck (and thus, sickness) would stay away from her.