Juuli Kotkas was born in an Estonian settlement near Kars in the Caucasus, which was then a Russian territory. In 1910 her family moved to Siberia, and settled in the Altai mountains, where she grew up speaking Russian; her only written source of her native Estonian language being a translation of Martin Luther's catechism. In spite of this it was Estonian in which she later wrote her poetry. She lived in various other parts of the Soviet Union (USSR) before moving to Germany and finally migrating to Australia in 1948 or 1949. Later in her life she joined a Pentecostal group, expressing her fundamentalist faith through poetry.