Galina Dzhugashvili was born in Moscow. Her mother was Yulia Meltzer, a well-known Jewish dancer from Odessa. After meeting Yulia at a reception, Yakov fought with her second husband, Nikolai Bessarab, and arranged her divorce. Bessarab was later arrested by the NKVD and executed. Yakov became her third husband.
Yakov was a senior lieutenant in the Soviet artillery in the Second World War. Historians have traditionally maintained that he was captured by the Germans in 1941 and died at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in 1943 after Stalin declined to exchange him for the captured German general Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus. Indeed, Stalin regarded Soviet PoWs as traitors, and had Yulia imprisoned in Lubyanka for two years. The United States Defense Department was in possession of documents which indicated that Yakov Dzhugashvili was shot by a concentration camp guard, which were shown to Galina Dzhugashvili in 2003, but which she rejected, claiming that her father was never taken prisoner by the Germans, but rather was killed in battle in 1941. She continuously maintained that any photographs or letters indicating her father was at the prison camp were Nazi propaganda.
She studied philology at Moscow State University, and received a doctorate. She was a member of the Russian Writers Union, and worked all her life as a translator of French, mainly for the Gorky Institute of World Literature. She was married to Husein ben Saad, an Algerian mathematician living in exile in Moscow and employed by the United Nations, but kept her maiden name. They had one son, Selim (b. 1970), who was born severely handicapped.
- The Times obituary refers to an interview published in Komsomolskaya Pravda in June 2006.
- New York Times obituary
- Obituary, The Independent, 15 September 2007
- Obituary, The Times, 10 September 2007