Wurmbrand was born Sabina Oster on July 10, 1913 in Czernowitz, a city in the Bucovine region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which became part of Romania after WWI, and since WWII has been part of Ukraine. This area was an important educational and cultural hub for the Jewish faith. Sabina graduated from high school in Czernowitz, and then studied languages at the Sorbonne in Paris. While working in Bucharest, she married Richard Wurmbrand in 1936. During a vacation that year, both Richard and Sabina were converted to the Christian faith, joining the church of the Anglican Mission in Bucharest.
During the occupation of Romania in 1940-43, Sabina’s parents, two sisters, and one brother were killed in Nazi concentration camps. From 1940 to 1945, she smuggled Jewish children out of ghettos, taught in bomb shelters, and was arrested several times for underground Christian activities during a state of war.
Sabina and her husband were spared from execution through the intervention of the chief editor of Romania’s main newspaper and interest shown in their case by prominent religious leaders. During this time, Sabina was one of the founders of the Jewish-Christian Church in Bucharest.
At the end of the war, Sabina travelled regularly to Budapest, smuggling in goods and food, especially salt, that were needed by refugees living there. During her travels, she would actively speak to the Russian occupation forces about the Christian faith. In 1946, she organized a soup kitchen in Bucharest which served 1,000 people a day during a severe drought. During the summers of 1946 and 1947, she organized Christian camps for Romania’s religious leaders of all denominations. During these years she also conducted street meetings with gatherings of up to 5,000 people.
After Richard’s arrest by the Communist government in 1948, Sabina encouraged young ministers to continue underground Christian activity. She was arrested in 1951 and taken to a labor camp to build a river canal. She spent three years in prison, and was under house arrest for several years after release.
The Communist authorities promised to free her if she would divorce her husband and renounce her faith, which she refused to do. She and her family escaped Romania in 1966, traveling throughout Europe and America, speaking for Christian Mission to the Communist World, which became the Voice of the Martyrs in 1992.
Sabina actively spoke to churches, groups, and conferences for 32 years after the founding of the ministry, and accompanied her husband to testify at Congressional hearings on religious persecution. She wrote, “The Pastor’s Wife,” detailing her testimony which continues to be published in six languages.