Riva was born on July 28, 1933 in Leningrad and her parents were from Belarus. Riva’s family had little Jewish traditions and they lived in an apartment with various other families. She had a great childhood before the war and an older brother whom she was very close with. Since both of Riva’s parents worked, she had a nanny by the name of Taisiya Mironova who played a great role in saving her life. They had a very close relationship with Taisiya and her family; Riva went to her house located in the village of Zamoskobye, Leningradsky Oblast, for the summer vacation.
Since Riva’s family was not aware of the immediate threat of the announcement of war, they were unable to evacuate or return to Leningrad. The Nazis had moved in quickly; people built hiding spots and slept in clothing in case they had to run away from Nazi raids. At one point, Riva and her brother left 20 km away from Taisiya’s house and had to pretend their parents had died. Riva’s brother wanted to join the partisans; she was devastated when he left to the join the army, she knew that they would never see each other again. He died several months later due to Nazi shootings and to this day they are unaware of where his grave is. Riva had to hide in the forest as well. At one point she had to hide above a Russian oven while a Nazi searched at gunpoint. Taisiya and her mother saved and hid her; Riva considered them her second mother and grandmother. In 1944, they had to hide in a distant forest while Nazis burnt down a house full of people nearby. They also burnt all of the grain; there were no cows, and no food. On February 23, 1944 the occupation was over. Taisiya started working on a railroad while her relative took Riva in. No one knew what was occurring in Leningrad since there were no telegraphs. Eventually Riva’s uncle who served in the army found her and they returned to Leningrad where she was reunited with her parents. Riva experienced many health issues and struggled to finish second grade. She had told her classmates she had been hiding and during the third grade, she wrote her survival story for an assignment. The assignment was submitted to the Leningrad Youth Organization; however, it was not approved and never returned back to Riva.
Riva eventually finished medical school, however was unable to advance her medical degree after graduation due to being Jewish. Riva got married, her husband died early, however she had two sons and three grandchildren. Riva has lived in the United States for 17 years and is happy she can live a Jewish life here. She hopes her children and grandchildren never have to experience her past. Taisiya was awarded with the title “The Righteous Among the Nations” after her death. Today there is a memorial of Taisiya Mironova in the museum Yad Vashem in Israel to honor her noble actions of saving Riva’s life during the war. Riva is very close to Taisya’s family to this day. Taisiya’s daughter, two granddaughters and great grandson live in Saint Petersburg, Russia. In the fall of 2013, her family visited Israel to commemorate the memory of Taisiya.