TEL AVIV - Sitting in her small Tel Aviv apartment - a gift from Russian President Vladimir Putin - 93-year-old Mina Yudiskaya Berliner recalled the diligent 15-year-old boy whom she had taught German in Leningrad's High School 281.
"I don't remember the grades he had but he didn't fail, that's for sure," she told Israeli news website Ynet. "He was disciplined and he wasn't a chatterbox."
Mrs Berliner who emigrated to Israel in 1973 - "I'd had enough of the Soviet regime" - saw a picture of her former student when he was appointed head of Russia's top intelligence agency in 1998.
She saw again him on television in 2005 when it was announced that then President Putin would visit Israel.
She contacted the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv and asked if she could attend a reception planned for him with Russian World War II veterans living in Israel.
At that meeting, Mrs Berliner related, Mr Putin asked her to stay behind and have tea with him in private.
"As we were walking to have tea," she recalled, "he said, 'You see I'm bald now.' I replied, 'I can see that.'"
Later, the embassy passed her an autographed copy of his biography and a watch.
Not long afterwards, a Russian embassy official appeared on her doorstep to inform her that Mr Putin wished to make her a gift of an apartment. The widow was living in a rented apartment in a poor neighbourhood.
"I told him all I needed was a flat that would be near the bus station, near the marketplace and near a health clinic," she said. She picked one of the two apartments shown to her.
Mrs Berliner described her student-turned-benefactor as "a very grateful and decent person".
The German that he learnt would serve him well when he was posted to East Germany as a KGB officer in 1985.
Ynet said it had contacted the presidential office in Moscow, which confirmed that Mrs Berliner had been Mr Putin's teacher and that they had met in Israel.
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