Diary of a Soviet Airwoman at War: The Front Closes In

Diary of a young Soviet airwoman, posted 70 years after WWII. In this entry (from late summer of 1941), Anna goes to insane lengths to prevent her U-2 biplane from being destroyed on the ground as a village is overrun by Germans.


The next shell exploded right next to the plane, splintering planks on the fuselage and wings. I shot into the cockpit and tried to start the engine. Nothing. I needed someone to hand-prop the plane. I spotted a military truck tearing at top speed down the road, rattling along with three good tires and a bare rim. I sprinted down the hill, trying to wave him down. The teen-aged driver tried to swerve around me, so without thinking, I whipped out my revolver and furiously riddled the remaining tires with bullets. He stopped, cursing me, and pulled out his rifle.

“Drop it,” I suggested, nodding toward his weapon. “You’d better help me start my plane.

The driver gaped at me. I don’t think he was expecting to hear a female voice. 

“Can’t you see the Fascists are here?” he said frantically. “They’ve broken through the front line. I’ve got to catch up to the others!”

“You’ll catch up,” I told him. “But I’ve got to get the plane started, and I need your help.”

“To hell with your plane! Get in the truck. Let’s get out of here before it’s too late.”

I glanced desperately at the U-2 as another blast shook her, shredding the little airplane’s fabric skin. The plane seemed to shiver with cold. 

“They’re going to destroy it!” I screamed, and yanked open the truck door. “Get out! I’ll only need you for a minute!”

“You’re out of your mind!” the boy said, obeying me at last. “Where’s the plane?”

I pointed up the hill, toward the windmill. “You’ve gone mad!” he shouted. “Look, they’re shooting the plane to pieces! Your bird is about to go up in flames…”

This is part 5 in a series of excerpts from a book I co-translated and edited in 2009: Red Sky, Black Death, A Soviet Woman Pilot’s Memoir of the Eastern Front, by Anna Timofeyeva-Yegorova

See Anna’s last entry                      See Anna’s next entry

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