“My name is Lilia Litvyak. They called me The White Lily. I died on August 1, 1943 after my plane was shot out of the skies in Eastern Ukraine. I was 21. “I was born and raised in Moscow, and did ‘kid things’ like ice skating in winter and collecting wildflowers in summer. “But my world changed when Hitler invaded the Motherland. I never planned to be a warrior, much less the world’s first female fighter-pilot.”
â€œI had lots of friends and enjoyed grammar school. But my favorite thing was spending the New Year holiday with my family and Father Frost.â€? Me
“As a teenager, I developed a mind of my own . I loved the controversial poet, Sergei Yesenin—he was so handsome! And, after reading about the Wright Brothers, I decided I wanted to fly.”
â€œMom was always my best friend. We cooked, sewed, and shopped together. She was so proud when I graduated with honors from high school.â€?
â€œDuring high school, Marina Raskova and her crew became the first women to fly across Russia. I wanted to be like them, so I convinced a pilot at the Taganka airdrome to teach me to fly in exchange for keeping his plane clean and giving him kissing lessons.â€?
“As high school ended, rumors of an impending war with Hitler grew. Comrade Stalin told us that women they would play an important role in saving the Motherland. I believed him.” ”
I was ridiculed by the men, when I said I wanted to be a fighter-pilot. The fact that I was a young-looking 18 didnâ€™t help. But, my flying skills eventually won the day.
“I quickly discovered war was hell. Being the first-woman-anything didn’t matter. Destroying Hitler was all that mattered.”
â€œMy mission was to kill airborne Nazis. I less than two years, I completed 268 missions, registered 15 solo kills and assisted on 22 others.â€?
“Despite the pain and suffering, there were a few minutes of sunshine… I met and field-married the man of my dreams.”
â€œI made friends with some brave woman that followed me into war.â€?
“And, went from being ‘the one and only’ to a fun-loving, respected member of the elite 473rd flying regiment.”
â€œAnd, I was promoted to senior lieutenant and a squadron leader.â€?
“I never signed up to become Hitler’s worst public relations nightmare. But, I was told we needed stories for home.”
“Unfortunately—for me—the publicity put me on the Luftwaffe’s ‘Most Wanted’ List.”
â€œSoon, my worst fears were realized. I was shot down and forgotten in the middle of the Eastern Ukraine.â€?
â€œThanks to one woman, Valentina Vaschenko, and a group of children, my remains were discovered 37 years later.â€?
“Valentina then spent another 13 years to have me formally recognized as a ‘Hero of the Soviet Union,’ our nation’s highest military honor.”
“Valentina’s town, Krasny Luch, was even kind enough to name a school after me, and place some monuments around the town center.”
“And, an American author—with no Russian ancestry— decided to tell my story to the world, 66 years after I died.”
â€œIt was never my intention to be a role model of what women can achieve against all odds, but here we are.â€?
â€œThis book deserves a special place among all the stories ever written about World War II.â€? -Hermitage Museum St. Petersburg, RU
The ebook of 20 rare, vintage pictures from Litvyak Museum, Krasny Luch here.