Nina Tretiak-Shields suffered terribly while growing up in the Ukraine under Communist rule.
In the late 1930s, Soviet police arrested and murdered her first husband, her father and most of the rest of her family.
She fled to save her own life, later finding her way to the United States and to Western New York, where she established the University at Buffalo's Russian program.
Tretiak-Shields, Ph.D., who described her extraordinary life of survival in a 2002 memoir, died Thursday in Canterbury Woods, Amherst, where she resided, following a brief illness. She was 92.
Born Nina Shuliak in Kharkiv, the Ukraine, she attended schools there.
She married Michael Ostochuk, a university classmate and anti-Communist activist, when she was in her early 20s. Her husband was arrested and assassinated by Soviet police in 1938.
Soon after that, her father and uncles and aunts met the same fate.
She was advised that her own life was in jeopardy, but she stayed at Kharkiv University to finish her studies, she later recalled to her family.
In 1940, Dr. Tretiak-Shields received her doctorate in history and philosophy, with honors, from the university and shortly after that was forced to flee.
While on the road in Eastern Europe, she met and married Andrew Tretiak.
In 1950, Dr. Tretiak-Shields moved to the United States and, five years later, earned a scholarship to Indiana University. There she obtained graduate degrees in Russian language and literature.
In 1959, she moved to Buffalo to open UB's Russian program. She retired from the university in the 1970s.
She was the author of several books, including a Russian textbook.
Her memoir, "Glorious and Dreadful," was published in 2002. The next year, in recognition of her contributions to her native city, Kharkiv National University awarded her an honorary degree.
Her second husband, from whom she was divorced, died in 1991. Her third husband, Konrad Shields, died in 1999.
Survivors include a daughter, Lucy Tretiak-Caruso; a stepdaughter, Kathy MacNeish; and a stepson, Konrad Shields Jr.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Monday in the Dengler & Roberts Funeral Home, 3000 Delaware Ave., Kenmore.
-- Stephen T. Watson