Margarita Iosifovna Aliger was born to an impoverished Jewish family in Odessa, Ukraine, then part of Russia. She first published her poetry in 1933 as a teenager. She studied writing at the Maxim Gorky Literature Institute in Moscow. Her early collections of poetry were God rozhdeniya (Year of Birth, 1938) and Kamni i travy (Stones and Herbs, 1940), and she became famous in 1942 with her long patriotic poem Zoya, which won the Stalin Prize. Besides poetry, she wrote many essays and propaganda articles, including works about Russian literature and her travels in Soviet Central Asia and Chile. In 1936, she married as her first husband Konstantin Makarov-Rakitin, a composer, with whom she had two children. Their baby son died, and Makarov-Rakitin was killed in World War II, after which she became active in the Jewish Antifascist Committee. The following year she had an affair with author Alexander Fadeyev, with whom she had a daughter. She also translated works by Ukrainian, Azerbaijani, and Uzbek authors. A number of her poems were translated into English by Elaine Feinstein and published as Collected Poems and Translations (2002).