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Lily Litvyak was a young fighter pilot in WW2, flying in the most intense air battles on the eastern front. She was a bundle of contradictions: feminine and fierce, patriotic and secretive. Digging out the truth has been a challenge. Each of the posts on this blog is a moment drawn from a thousand pages... Continue Reading →

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A Moment Of Joy

This is my favourite photo of Lily because it's spontaneous. Usually photos of soldiers are stiff and posed, but you can really see the affection among these comrades, here. Lily has just returned to her regiment after a few weeks in Moscow, recovering from battle wounds. It's spring of 1943. Her commander, "Papa" (Nikolai) Baranov--Lieutenant... Continue Reading →

The Camels

(Photo: German soldier near Stalingrad, 1942. Source: here.) While Lily was fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad, camels would have been a familiar sight. The first time I read about a convoy of camels bringing water to soldiers there, I was astonished. When I pictured Russia, I thought of snow and not camels, which I... Continue Reading →

Lily Finds A Home: Part I

After being shunned by the pilots in the 9th Guards, an elite unit, Lily requested a transfer in early 1943. She was welcomed, not by any old unit, but the fighter regiment famous for winning the first Soviet victory in air combat. This was the 296th fighter air regiment, and the photos in the newspaper... Continue Reading →

Lily Finds A Home Part II

The tactics used in the famous air battle called "7 against 25" influenced Lily's approach to flying. She liked to attack the enemy head-on without care for any danger to herself, and even when her aircraft was damaged, she stayed in the fight. At the time of the battle, Lily was still in training with... Continue Reading →

The Incident of the Propeller

While in training at the military air force school in Engels in the fall of 1941, Lily got into trouble for balking at getting her hair cut and altering her uniform to make it more flattering. She had spunk, and that could be dangerous. Before the war, people were sent to the Gulag for showing... Continue Reading →

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