Motl Derbaremdiker was born in 1920 in Berdichev. He traces his ancestry to Hasidic Tsadik Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev. His father was a soap maker and later became the manager of a soap and soda shop. His mother worked as a seamstress. Motl studied at a heder and then at a Yiddish school for seven grades. In 1936 he moved to Kiev to study chemistry at the Institute of Leather Industry. During the war, he was evacuated to Samara (Kuibyshev), and he returned to Kiev in 1945, where he settled. After postgraduate studies at the Kiev Light Industry University, he worked as a research engineer in a factory.