Iosif Torchinsky was born in 1918 in Skvyra. He moved to Kyiv with his older sister in 1934. His father passed away when he was one year old. His mother owned a shop and traded in goods. After her shop was closed down, she worked at the kolkhoz "Der Poyer" as a cook. He attended a Yiddish school for seven years. After graduation, he studied at a Ukrainian commercial school. He joined the Red Army in 1938 and was sent to Odesa to study at a military school.