Lydia Litvyak

Lydia Litvyak

 
Lydia Litvyak, one of two Soviet female ace fighter pilots of WWII
 
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Lydia Litvyak discussion
 
cottamkj
There is something about this subject that lends itself to misinformation. In the Soviet Union Litvyak was never called "White Rose", as the flower painted on her fuselage was lily. In the West, somebody assumed that this lily looked like a rose and this is how she became "The White Rose of Stalingrad." On a more serious note, she was not in love with Solomatin, her squadron commander, when he was alive and even transferred to another squadron to get away from him. She never married him. However, after he died in an accident, she realized she did love him, as she confessed in a letter to her mother. (See Reina Pennington, Wings, Women & War. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2001, pp. 138-139.)Another myth pertains to her alleged death. Her body was never found and exhumed. She was seen in a PoW camp by a fellow fighter pilot after her crash landing. Also, Alexander Gridnev, the commanding officer of the 586th Fighter Regiment in which she initially served, heard her speak on German radio after she was captured by the enemy; his hand-written note testifying about this is preserved in the Monino Air Force Archives. This information comes from Ekaterina Polunina, former chief mechanic of the 586th Fighter Regiment, who was in charge of the archives pertaining to all Soviet women fighter pilots. She is a reliable source and I met her in person in San Diego during the 2005 reunion with several Russian airwomen veterans. She presented me with her book, in which she documents the new evidence regarding Litvyak's survival of her crash landing on August 1, 1943. (See Ekaterina Polunina, Devchonki, podruzhki, letchitsy. Moscow, 2004, p. 146.) There is an unconfirmed rumour that Litvyak may have settled in Switzerland after the war, married there and had three children.
           
 
defender
replied to: cottamkj
Replied To:  There is something about this subject that lends itself to misinfor...
With all due respect to the academic credentials and the knowledge of the subject matter displayed by the author of the above post, I have to take exception to some statements pertaining to Lidia’s fate. Officially, and I believe this being the truth, Lidia Livyak was killed in action. Everything else appears to be nothing more than a hearsay.
First, the statement “her body was never found and exhumed” is incorrect. As per Russian sources (http://www.airwar.ru/history/aces/ace2ww/pilots/litvak.html and http://www.peoples.ru/military/aviation/lidia_litvyak), in the summer of 1979 a body of a female pilot was incidentally found by a group of children near the Village of Dmitrovka. The body was in the location known to the locals as a belly lending site of a soviet fighter plane. The Commission of medical experts that had been invited to examine the human remains determined that the remains were that of a female, petite size pilot. Ina Pasportnikova, Lidia’s aircraft mechanic who was closely involved in the search for Lidia’s remains, said in an interview with Anne Noggle, that a flight suit, hair and a gold tooth were also recovered from the burial place (see Anne Noggle,Dance with Death, Texas A&M University Press, 2001 p. 200). Russian sources indicate that the female pilot sustained a mortal head injury. Although, DNA identification was not available those days, the identity of the pilot was determined based on the flight records of the 8th Air Force Army operating in this battle area during the time of the forced landing. Only Litvyak and Budanova were the female fighter pilots flying within 8th Air Army of area of operation. On the day Litvyak plane was downed, Budanova was already dead, hence, the human remains found could have been only Litvyak’s . The golden tooth, the flight suit and the hair found with the remains, added and an extra evidence to support the final identification. Bearing in mind the traditional thoroughness of KGB’s examination of records and obsessive dedication to the rules of HSU awards, I doubt that a misidentification took place.
Second, the rumor about Lidia’s sighting in a POW camp and her appearance on German Radio borders with impossibility. Hitler’s orders in regards to treatment of Russian POWs were clear and were consistently carried out. Political commissars and Jews captured during the war were to be executed on the spot. It is safe to say that Lidia was a well known fighter pilot not only to the Soviet armed forces, but also to German airmen. It is fair to believe that her capture and identification would lead to an immediate execution on racial grounds (Jewish ancestry), or in the best case, placement in an extermination camp which was the standard practice when handling Soviet POWs. Furthermore, her mother and brother lived on the Soviet held territory. Neither mighty Smersh nor NKVD recorded any appearances by Litviak on German radio. Had she accepted a propaganda work for the Germans, her family would have been arrested in 24 hrs and either shot, or sent to a labor camp. Lidia’s close relationship with her mother is well documented. On this basis, the traitor-radio speaker scenario can be eliminated. As a marginal comment, how many impersonators can be found on radio waves today?
Third, Ekaterina Polunina (the Chief Mechanic of 586th Fighter Regiment) is not any more reliable narrator than Ina Pasportnikova (Lidia’s aircraft mechanic). Polunina seems to be the dominant source of negativity pertaining to Lidia Litviak’s fate. I have no evidence to support this thesis, but perhaps Polunina was promoted by and became a member of Tamara Kazarinova’s inner circle. Lidia and some other female expert pilots were in strong opposition to Kazarinova’s command. Hence, it would not be out of the ordinary that Kazarinova’s supporter tries now to discredit former opponent to avenge Tamara’s loss of command. Another factor to consider is the potential dislike by the conservative segment of the regiment Lidia may have experienced. Lidia Litvyak was a charming and very attractive woman, displaying at the same time superb flying/fighting skills. It has been my observation made during the many years of my life that this type of female is too challenging and is frequently disliked by conservative females. The effects of such a dislike may be ever lasting.
Fourth, the rumor about Lidia settling in Switzerland belongs rather to fairy tale class fantasies. The post war agreement between Western Allies and the Soviet Union required forced deportation to Soviet Union of all Russian nationals found on foreign territories. Assuming that she somehow survived concentration camp, Lidia would have been shipped in a cattle car to SU like all other Russian POWs liberated by the Western Allies. If, on the other hand, she found a non-Russian partner and married him before the mass deportations began, nothing would explain her appearance on Swiss TV after years of hiding under her new name and separation from her beloved family. Lidia would have enough foresight to realize that if Moscow found her living abroad, her name would be blacklisted forever and her family would be disgraced. That’s my take on Lidia Litvyak’s story. Let’s allow her to rest in peace.
           
 
Polkadot
replied to: defender
Replied To:  With all due respect to the academic credentials and the knowledge ...
I am well aware that Russian sources are often highly suspect. In this case they really were. There was a rumour circulating that school children found Litvyak's body long after the end of the hostilities and it was buried in a certain mass grave near Krasnyy Luch in the Ukraine. This body was never exhumed, so there is no proof that her body was buried in that particular common grave. I was told by Ekaterina Polunina, chief mechanic of the women's fighter regiment and keeper of all the records for that regiment, at a reunion held in San Diego, that she was the one who ordered that a plaque with Litvyak's name be placed on that grave, even though there was no proof that Litvyak's body was buried there. This was a means of Litvyak becoming a legitimate candidate for the award of Hero of the Soviet Union. (Anyone taken prisoner by the enemy was considered a traitor in Soviet Russia. Thus all kinds of efforts were made to persuade the authorities that Litvyak was killed rather than taken prisoner.) There was no real proof that the body of a woman pilot found was Litvyak's. No DNA test was performed.On the other hand, Pasportnikova was not an eyewitness, she merely repeated what she was told. Moreover, I happen to have a copy of Litvyak's birth certificate which shows that she was not Jewish. There is solid evidence to suggest that many Russians in the military were taken prisoner by the Germans and suffered persecution at home after their release. I am well aware of the deportations of Soviet citizens back home immediately after the end of WWII in Europe, but some managed to stay abroad, especially women who got married to non-Soviet citizens. Moreover, it is preposterous to argue that Litvyak's Swiss television appearance would have been impossible long after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Bear in mind that the veteran who spoke on Swiss television did not reveal her maiden name. There is some doubt as to whether this was Litvyak, but a former comrade-in-arms, who claimed he saw her in a PoW camp, had no motivation to spread fairy tales about Litvyak. I don't know why the contributor I am arguing against is obviously so emotionally committed to the idea that Litvyak was killed. His credibility is seriously in doubt, especially when he displays his highly negative attitude towards Polunina. It is downright shocking to attribute hostile intentions to Polunina, who had never been a favourite of her disgraced commander. She did all she could to persuade the authorities that Litvyak deserved to be awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union and was NOT a traitor. This is why she ordered that a plaque confirming Litvyak was buried in a certain grave be placed on that grave, even though there was absolutely no proof Litvyak was buried there.
           
 
gpmilan17
replied to: Polkadot
Replied To:  I am well aware that Russian sources are often highly suspect. In t...
Hello, I have just finished to write a book about Soviet airwomen and I studied for months the subject... I went to Moscow last May to the Veteran meeting and of course I asked about Lydia Litvyak to the very few veterans that knew her while she was in 122 Airgroup or in 586 IAP. I am going back next month hoping to view the exhumation certificate of her body that is preserved in the Defence Ministry. When I came back I shall be able to say something more. I can say now that one of the veteran, that worked for the KGB secret service stated that Lydia was still alive...
I am very interested in the birth certificate of Lydia Litvyak, can You tell me how I can give a copy of it? Regards
           
 
Polkadot
replied to: gpmilan17
Replied To:  Hello, I have just finished to write a book about Soviet airwomen a...
Litvyak survived the crash and was incarcerated in a PoW camp. There is no exhumation certificate. Who told you that this kind of certificate is preserved in the Defence Ministry? She may well be still alive, living in Switzerland. Her husband was a Swede and they had three children. Henry Sakaida, an American writer who lives in California, sent me a copy of her Birth Certificate as an attachment to an e-mail but I can't find it. If you write to him, he will likely send it to you as an attachment to e-mail. Meanwhile, I will write to him as well.
           
 
Polkadot
replied to: Polkadot
Replied To:  Litvyak survived the crash and was incarcerated in a PoW camp. Ther...
One of the comments about Lydia Litvyak doubts that she survived the war, because she wasn't shipped back to the Soviet Union immediately after the war. When she appeared on Swiss Television--it is very likely that the woman who did appear in 2000 on Swiss Television was Litvyak--by that time both her mother and brother have died and the Soviet Union was no more. Thus she wasn't risking the well-being of her immediate family by thus coming forward.
           
 
gpmilan17
replied to: Polkadot
Replied To:  Litvyak survived the crash and was incarcerated in a PoW camp. Ther...
Balshoe Cpacciba for Your support... who told me about the exumation certificate? He is a son and nephew of "Night Witches", Hero of Soviet Union, writer, historian and author of documentary and movie scripts about the Soviet Airwomen, former "worker" for USSR secret service, in a word, a reliable source... How can You be so certain of what You say, excuse me? As an author I am used to rely on reliable sources, do You have any? I am really interested. Who told you that she married a Swede? If You have informations You could contact me (deleted e-mail for danger of spam), pajaluista!
Dasvidanya!
gpm
           
 
Polkadot
replied to: gpmilan17
Replied To:  Balshoe Cpacciba for Your support... who told me about the exumatio...
Your Russian spelling leaves a lot to be desired. I am not impressed. Don't use the term "Night Witches"--it is demeaning. I happen to be one of the top experts on Lidya Litvyak--a well known historian. Most of the stuff written about Litvyak is nothing but silly nonsense. I was at the 2005 San Diego reunion with Russian veterans, including Polunina, chief mechanic of the 586th Fighter Regiment in which Litvyak had served. Polunina was in charge of her unit's archives. She presented me with her book. In it she tells how in the year 2000 she got a telephone call from veteran pilot Nina Raspopova from the night bomber regiment who knew Litvyak and thought she recognized her being interviewed on Swiss television; the broadcast was seen in Russia. The Russian woman, former combat pilot, emigrated to Switzerland, married a Swede, and they had three children. However, the veteran pilot didn't give out her maiden name. Polunina, an eyewitness, says that Litvyak's body was never exhumed from the grave near Krasnyy Luch, but Polunina ordered that a plaque be put on that grave claiming that Litvyak was buried there to make Litvyak eligible to receive the Hero of the Soviet Union. In fact, I was in Moscow when the Hero was awarded to her, supposedly posthumously. From the beginning rumours were circulated that Litvyak was seen, following her crash, escorted by German troops. Famous pilot Vladimir Lavrinenkov who had served with Litvyak, confided in fellow fighter pilot Klavdiya Pankratova-Tubalova that he had seen Litvyak in a PoW camp. Alexander Gridnev, the commanding officer of the 586th Fighter Regiment, in which Litvyak had initially served, heard her speaking on German radio following her capture by the enemy. Polunina determined that his handwritten note about this is in the WWII archives, now in the town of Podol'sk near Moscow. However, foreigners find it difficult to access these archives! Thus, while we cannot be sure whether the veteran speaking on Swiss television was Litvyak, the case for her being captured by the Germans and kept in a well-known PoW camp is sufficiently documented by an eye-witness. I don't have time for lengthy discussions of false rumours. You bet I am not listening to rumours; I try to interview eyewitnesses; I have been taught how to conduct historical research competently, having attended prestigious universities I graduated from--Montreal's Concordia and University of Toronto. I came first out of 500 graduating history students from Concordia and qualified for prestigious fellowships enabling me to do postgraduate studies in Europe.
           
 
Polkadot
replied to: Polkadot
Replied To:  Your Russian spelling leaves a lot to be desired. I am not impresse...
More on inaccurate information about Litvyak. Just because your source is a son and nephew of someone serving with the sensational "Night Witches," HSU, writer, historian and author of documentaries, i.e. movie scripts, as well as a former worker of USSR secret service, doesn't make him an expert on Litvyak. In addition to being an author with an international reputation, I lived in the USSR for five years, both as a child and as a diplomat. I have no illusions or the naivety of those who are personally unfamiliar with the former Soviet Union, or even current Russia, or those who grew up under the oppressive regime of Soviet Russia. The individual in question probably believes that Litvyak lies in that convenient grave near Krasnyy Luch, when in fact no attempt was made to exhume her alleged body. The lobbied Ministry merely issued the necessary certificate making Litvyak eligible for the Hero of the Soviet Union, without having her body exhumed. My information is based on a testimony of eyewitnesses; obviously, your source was not an eyewitness himself.
           
 
Polkadot
replied to: Polkadot
Replied To:  More on inaccurate information about Litvyak. Just because your sou...
This is my final comment, I hope. In one of the responses above was said, as I recall, that Soviet citizens who found themselves abroad following WWII were captured and returned to Soviet Russia. Thus Litvyak couldn't have stayed behind in western Europe. However, some Soviet women managed to escape the repatriation against their will by getting married. It is possible that an immediate marriage to a Swedish citizen made it possible for Litvyak to avoid her forced return to Soviet Russia. I note that I am not the only only person contributing to this blog who was exposed to information suggesting that Litvyak was still alive a few years ago.
           
 
gpmilan17
replied to: Polkadot
Replied To:  Your Russian spelling leaves a lot to be desired. I am not impresse...
You are not impressed by my Russian (anyway I was not trying to impress You, my Russian is rather poor, and I don't feel confident about my English as well, as I am Italian) but I am really impressed by You!! Please, believe me!! I have been studying Your books about Soviet airwomen for 15 months, I have both of them still on my desk. I love(d) them so much! Of one, I have two copies, because the first is collapsing, so much I used it! So thanks a lot for Your answer! And congratulations for Your accomplishments... I have studied History in the main Rome University, "La Sapienza", but my studies are mainly literary. Anyway I worked as a journalist for some of the most important Italian newspapers and I learnt how to be objective. About Lydia Litvyak I have many doubts, some of them regarding her air combats. In my book I explain how her "kills" in September are not supported by Luftwaffe records. About her death, Polunina herself reports how Tabunov saw her to be shot down. So in my book I write all the different opinions, trying not to chose one, even if I would prefer that she survived.
           
 
Polkadot
replied to: gpmilan17
Replied To:  You are not impressed by my Russian (anyway I was not trying to imp...
Litvyak was definitely shot down, but apparently she survived the crash-landing! Incidentally, a friend of mine went to the alleged site of the crash and he is very, very dubious there was in fact a fatal crash landing by a Soviet pilot at this site. The ground is absolutely not disturbed. Moreover, I agree with him that after so many years how could anyone even identify the alleged body as female? Anne Noggle, former WASP and post-war gifted photographer, became a dear friend of mine. She told me how badly the veterans were treated after the war; they were almost starving. Anne was paying one of them $1,000 per month from her own pocket. Anne knew and talked to Litvyak's brother, using an interpreter. Are you aware that he changed his name after Litvyak disappeared, so as not to be identified as her brother? He died quite young, in the early 'nineties. The fear that her loved ones would suffer should she identify herself likely kept Litvyak from contacting them--thus she apparently maintained a very low profile after the war. The woman veteran in Switzerland--whether she was Litvyak or not--who could have given out her maiden name but didn't when interviewed on Swiss television, withheld it for the same reason.

           
 
gpmilan17
replied to: Polkadot
Replied To:  Litvyak was definitely shot down, but apparently she survived the c...
First of all, let me tell You that I regard as a privilege the chance to communicate with You, I appreciate Your work greatly and I envy Your deep competence in the subject...I know about the doubts regarding the crash site, but if the plane belly-landed, with retracted landing-gear - should have not left any big hole... moreover, the Yakovlev Yak-1s were of mixed construction, wood and metal, if her aircraft did not dived vertically to the ground, could not dig any big holes. But If I can manage to go there I shall ask that question. I agree with You that they could not identify the body as that of a girl, this is another question to ask to Valentina Kravschenko. I am really sorry about the unkind treatment of the veterans... I tried to help one as well, sending many little bottles of expensive (in Russia) medicine for the eyes... I know about che change of name of Litvyak Brother and I envy Ann Noggle (I have her book here) that could meet him... SO... I shall go next month to Moscow hoping to view and photograph the alleged exumation certificate, if I succed I shall tell You. By the way, a German researcher is researching for me in the Bundes Archives any information about Lytviak or imprisoned female pilot in that area in those days... what else can we do to find out the truth?
           
 
Hatescrap
replied to: defender
Replied To:  With all due respect to the academic credentials and the knowledge ...
1) Regarding the alleged identification of the body of Lidya Litvyak, how do you explain the reported rumours in the area Litvyak's plane came down that local farmers have seen her escorted by German soldiers? What was behind these rumours? Moreover, how can we be sure that it was possible to properly identify a body that was exposed to the elements for so many years? 2) I have Litvyak's so-called Record Card and she is listed as Russian, not Jewish. 3)Why did Alexander Gridnev, the commander of Litvyak's original regiment, claim that he heard her speak on German radio? Does her speaking alone imply that she was a traitor? Maybe she simply wanted to reassure her loved ones that she was still alive? She was a beautiful blonde and possibly a sympathetic German allowed her to speak, to reassure her loved ones? 4) Chief Mechanic Polunina of Litvyak's original regiment told me that she was in a position to order a plaque to be placed on a common grave near Krasnyy Luch to identify Litvyak as being buried in this particular grave and this was done in order to make Litvyak eligible for the Hero of the Soviet Union medal. Missing people were not qualified to be so decorated. 5) We don't know whether Litvyak survived the internment in a PoW camp and if she indeed escaped being returned to the Soviet Union due to her marriage to a Swede. However, there would have been nothing strange about her appearance on Swiss television in the year 2000. By that time Soviet Union was no more; Litvyak's beloved brother had died and he was the one she feared would likely be persecuted as a result of her defection to the West. It is obvious that I have largely destroyed the arguments against Litvyak's surviving her crash-landing. No, I shall not let her rest her in peace. She may still be alive and glad to have her story told.
           
 
gpmilan17
replied to: defender
Replied To:  With all due respect to the academic credentials and the knowledge ...
I have been there, I have talked to witnesses, I was in the exact place where her aircraft impacted to the ground. I have talked (by my interpreter) to one of the children that should have found the body: he says no helmet was found, no silk bra, no golden tooth (how Pasportnikova, her mechanic, reported), nothing that could make them think the skeleton was of a woman. They knew exactly that there was a plane there, they did not find it by chance pursuing a little snake: fairytale by Pasportinikova. I have been to the spot, it is about 500 feet from Khozhevnya village, hard ground in summer, how could a crashing plane not be seen in open day by the villagers? THey went there to dig to find pieces of the aircraft, they used alloy to make spoon, I have seen those tools in that area. Litvyak was shot in the head? ANd how could it possible to fly away pursued by German fighters of the elite units (JG 3 od JG 52) and to hide in a cloud with a hole in the head? Have you ever seen the body of a pilot in the cockpit of a crashing aircraft? Who does this work tells me that they found small fragments, the bigger parts could be an arm, teeth, not a whole well preserved skeleton. I have spent almost a week researching in the area. I found a witness that reported to me how a girl parachuted on the area of Khozevnya, exactly the spot where Litvyak plane crashed. Who could be? Only Budanova and Litvyak were fighting in the Miius front but Budanova had been buried in the Novokrasnovka outskirt... By the way, I have seen the exact spot where Budanova was... that was just a field with nothing on it, while the official pictures show a well definite tomb, with stones and cross, just to shot some pictures with her sister on it... propaganda... Everything official regarding Litvyak is suspect. I have been to the official spot where her aircraft crashed. It is not the exact spot, but they put the memorial there (with the wrong date of crash). Have You seen the Brotherhood Tomb n° 19? I mean, have You been there? I was. THey buried more than 2000 corps there. How could they find the skeleton of Litvyak there, ten years after? They didn't, they never opened the tomb, witnesses told me that. SO? I could go on. I discovered that many of the Litvyak air victories are not confirmed, why noone of the celebrated historians that wrote about her, why they never cross-checked the data of the German Jagdeschwaders that faced Litvyak regiment? THere is no trace of several of her victories... The last pilots or JG 3 and JG 52 were aces with more air victories than all the girl-fighters put togheter, that cold esaily shot down Heroes like Solomatin, or the regimental commander Baranov and Golishe, one after the other... HOw could Litvyak accumulated victories against such Experten? I have done that job, I have done that research, it took me years, the results are pubished in my book "Le STreghe della Notte" and will be published in my next "A pictorial history of the Soviet Airwomen of the Great Patriotic War", with about 70 pictures of or regarding Litvyak. Balshoe Cpacciba.
           
 
Hatescrap
replied to: defender
Replied To:  With all due respect to the academic credentials and the knowledge ...
First, it is amazing how naive people are about Soviet propaganda and Soviet ways of researching situations such as this. I met Polunina at San Diego, I have her book. Apart from some minor details, the woman was credible. (Note there are no WWII documents in Monino, all are now housed at Podol'sk near Moscow.) "As per Russian sources" tells is all... Since when Russian/Soviet sources have suddenly become trustworthy? I lived in Soviet Union for six years; I was there during WWII--I went to school there. The Commission of Medical Experts were told what to find. Anne Noggle was a dear friend of mine, but she didn't speak a word of Russian. She was totally dependent on her interpreters for information about Litvyak. I had issues with her translator I met in San Diego in 2005. As to the thoroughness of the KGB, a dead body would not have been a threat to them--they had no vested interest in identifying the body one way or another. On the other hand, those who wanted Litvyak to be awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal urgently needed to identify her body and find her gravesite. This speaks volumes... In a nutshell, human remains are not identifiable after so many years of exposure... And what about the farmers who claimed they have seen Litvyak after her capture accompanied by German soldiers? Second, I have seen Litvyak's Record Card issued on May 5th 1990, the day she was posthumously awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal; she is listed as Russian in this document. Her surname Litvyak is not Jewish. The Jewish name is spelled "Litvak" rather than "Litvyak". Third, I don't have reason to believe that Polunina disliked Litvyak, who was soon to be transferred to another (all male) regiment along with Budanova and Masha Kuznetsova (whom I met in Moscow in 1990). Kuznetsova was soon to return to the women's regiment. As I already argued, Litvyak spent most of her flying time away from the women's regiments. Fourth, there would have been nothing strange about Litvyak appearing on Swiss television in 2000. She may not have had an opportunity to do so earlier and by 2000 she probably felt she was less likely to be recognized in Russia. How many former Soviet women fighter pilots found themselves in Switzerland at that time or for that matter anywhere else in Europe? My opponent desperately tries to prove his point. Well, your take is dead wrong. Litvyak may still be alive! Why should we allow her rest in peace? Why not seek the truth? In the end, I am sure Litvyak would have liked the world to know the truth, would have liked the world to come to the right conclusions, unobscured by strange attitudes towards Soviet-style propaganda. Henry Sakaida and no doubt many other scholars now share my point of view. Thus I am not alone, by far, here and elsewhere. By the way, Litvyak's squadron commander Solomatin was not killed in combat. He was practicing some aerobatics, miscalculated and crashed to the ground.
           
 
Hatescrap
replied to: Hatescrap
Replied To:  First, it is amazing how naive people are about Soviet propaganda a...
Actually, I am replying to gpmilan17, who tries to be both accurate and impartial. He expressed an interest in Litvyak's birth certificate I mentioned. My verification determined that what I had wasn't a birth certificate after all; it was so-called Record Card and it does state that Litvyak was Russian, rather than Jewish. I just received an e-mail from Henry Sakaida; he is convinced that Litvyak wasn't Jewish. He also told me that it is highly unlikely that Litvyak came down in her aircraft, most likely she parachuted from it and was soon captured by the enemy. It is highly noteworthy that rumours persisted that she was subsequently seen by local peasants being escorted by enemy soldiers. She couldn't have been seriously wounded if she was seen walking! According to Polunina, Chief Mechanic of the 586th Fighter Regiment in which Litvyak initially served, Ekaterina Budanova who fought alongside Litvyak had more kills than did Litvyak. (As I already mentioned, Polunina was in charge of this regiment's archives.) Budanova's record as cited by Polunina in her book (see below) was six aircraft shot down by herself and four in group combat, whereas the kills attributed to Litvyak differed. As of July 15, 1943 she was credited with four enemy aircraft shot down by herself independently and four in group combat. By the end of July she was credited with five enemy aircraft shot down independently as well as one Me-109 and one observation balloon in group combat. See Ekaterina Polunina, Devchonki, podruzhki, LETCHITSY (Moscow, 2004), pp. 139 and 143.
           
 
Hatescrap
replied to: Polkadot
Replied To:  Litvyak survived the crash and was incarcerated in a PoW camp. Ther...
I should explain that the document referred earlier in this discussion as Birth Certificate of Lidya Litvyak was actually so-called Record Card identifying Litvyak as Russian rather than Jewish.
           
 
Hatescrap
replied to: cottamkj
Replied To:  There is something about this subject that lends itself to misinfor...
It is noteworthy that an Italian writer who calls himself gpmilan17 here has recently travelled to Russia, where he devoted a substantial amount of his time to researching the WWII fate of Lidya Litvyak (written in the summer of 2012). It is noteworthy that he thus became a convert to an assumption that Litvyak survived her last mission. He was told by an elderly peasant that he had seen a young girl military pilot descend with a parachute around the time Litvyak disappeared. No other female military pilots were known to operate in the vicinity of the alleged crash landing. Note that WWII documents are not to be currently found in Monino; they are preserved in the WWII Archives in Podol'sk near Moscow. The ability of Litvyak to settle in Switzerland was frequently challenged as Soviet citizens who found themselves abroad were promptly returned to the Soviet Union. However, women that married almost immediately avoided the forced repatriation. Litvyak may well have been among them.
           
 
phrrenaud
replied to: gpmilan17
Replied To:  Hello, I have just finished to write a book about Soviet airwomen a...
Greetings to you, and best of luck on your research and new book. Senior Lieutenant LYDIA LITVYAK is a very special person to me. My mother was a teenager in WW2. She was in the Resistance (innocent looking messenger on her bicycle). LYDIA LITYAK is 8 years older than my mother was. To me, she represents the top in profiles of courage when it comes to fighting absolute evil. In June-July 1941, she did not care about the fact that stalin had thrown her dad in the gulags. She was a highly talented flight instructor, her "RODINA" (mother land) was being invaded, she did not hesitate! She enlisted and braved every danger to kick the enemy out (Prince Alexander NEVSKY style).
Aside from the birth certificate, may I make the following suggestions?
1. If they allow you to exhume the body of the woman we believe is Sr. Lt. LITVYAK, can DNA samples be obtained and checked against samples of living LITVYAK family members? That will answer a lot of questions!
2. Can the person who claimed to have recognized her in a POW camp tell you WHICH CAMP IT WAS? And, by the way, who was that witness?
3. If the Germans kept records of their prisoners by name, and if they have been preserved, let's look for names. I don't believe you will find LYDIA LITVYAK. She was too smart to give her real name. The minute she was surrounded, she knew the Russian Roulette game of being caught between two demonic dictators (hitler and stalin) had begun. She tore up her papers. Let's look at the German records and check them against Soviet records. Whatever discrepancy you find is where LYDIA LITVYAK is hiding for the sake of her family's safety.
4. Who was the woman that appeared on SWISS TV in the year 2000? What married name did she give??? Was it Swedish? Can that broadcast be found?
Last but not least, PLEASE EXPRESS MY MOST PROFOUND AND SINCERE RESPECT TO THE VETERANS OF THE 586th AIR REGIMENT YOU MEET FOR THE INCOMPARABLE VALOR THEY HAVE DEMONSTRATED!!! The same goes for Maria DOLINA's Bombardier Regiment, and all the NIGHT WITCHES who risked their lives in their sturdy Po2's!
Now... if I may... We must remember to remain objective at all levels: both conscious AND unconscious! Somehow, someway, we want the heroes we love to still be alive so we can hug them and say THANK YOU in person! We want to be at their side to help them live golden years at the twilight of their earthly lives! When it comes to LYDIA LITVYAK, who would not fall in love with this proud warrior (in the most honorable sense of the word LOVE of course)? Yet, in the name of TRUTH, we must make sure none of these feelings come to hamper the objectivity of our research.
My name is Philippe RENAUD. My e-mail is phrrenaud@aol.com . GOOD LUCK and GOD BLESS. PhRR.
           
 
phrrenaud
replied to: gpmilan17
Replied To:  Hello, I have just finished to write a book about Soviet airwomen a...
Greetings to you again... disregard this entry. It's an error. Sorry!
           
 
phrrenaud
replied to: phrrenaud
Replied To:  Greetings to you again... disregard this entry. It's an error. Sorry!
Please, accept my apologies. I accidentally repeated my posting.
           
 
phrrenaud
replied to: Polkadot
Replied To:  Litvyak survived the crash and was incarcerated in a PoW camp. Ther...
GREETINGS! Sr. Lt. LYDIA LITVYAK has shown courage and valor under combat that go well beyond the call of duty! My French compatriot Antoine de SAINT-EXUPERY in his semi-autobiographical novel FLIGHT TO ARRAS (HOMMES DE GUERRE) proclaimed at the end: "I will fight for MANKIND" ("Je combattrai pour L'HOMME"). This is exactly what Sr. Lt. LITVYAK did, and she is well deserving of the interest we all demonstrate.
HERE IS MY QUESTION TO YOU: HAVE THE WITNESSES WHO CLAIM TO HAVE RECOGNIZED HER IN A PoW CAMP SAID WHICH CAMP IT WAS? WHAT WAS THE NAME OF THE CAMP??? BUCHENWALD (I hope not)? IT'S IMPORTANT. IF WE KNOW THE CAMP, WE HAVE A TRAIL... EVEN IF Sr. Lt. LITVYAK HAD THE INTELLIGENCE OF NOT PROVIDING HER REAL NAME TO THE NAZI's (there are ways to get around that).
My name is Philippe RENAUD. I'm a creative writer with too much respect for the Senior Lieutenant to want to use her as "material" for a novel. I will NOT write a novel at her expense (besides, if she survived, she wrote a personal journal --if only to remind herself of who she is and was). My e-mail is phrrenaud@aol.com . Please let me know about the camp if you have an answer.
GOD BLESS. PhRR.
           
 
Hatescrap
replied to: phrrenaud
Replied To:  GREETINGS! Sr. Lt. LYDIA LITVYAK has shown courage and valor under ...
I have had enough bother with people who believe everything the Soviets and Russians tell them. I have had enough of nonsensical feedback pertaining to Litvyak! I don’t suffer fools gladly. So please don’t talk to me about the alleged exhumation of Lydia Litvyak’s body. I am in touch with Gian Piero Milanetti, a credible Italian writer, who went to the Ukraine to research his book about Soviet airwomen and was provided with what appears to be solid evidence that Litvyak bailed out safely and was captured by the enemy. (Milanetti was told by an old peasant that a young female fighter pilot was seen by an eyewitness coming down safely with a parachute. No other female fighter pilots operated in this area—undoubtedly this was Litvyak!)

We don’t believe the body—what body? was Litvyak’s, because there is solid evidence she came down safely with a parachute. There is also evidence provided by peasants from the very beginning that she was seen escorted by German soldiers following her capture. I came across this info while doing my research. So don’t talk to me about DNA samples because you will make me furious. I am not going to waste my time on those who fanatically believe in Litvyak’s death because they are so obsessed with this kind of sensationalism. There was no body, so it makes no sense whatsoever to discuss DNA’s availability. Besides there are no living members of Litvyak’s family. Let us forget about the DNA—getting it is completely unrealistic and beside the point.

I too talked to knowledgeable people, namely Ekaterina Polunina, an author of a valuable book—-we both attended the same reunion of Russian airwomen and the WASP in San Diego in 2005. Polunina presented me with her book in which she documents Litvyak’s fate.

Unfortunately, Vladimir Lavrinenkov, the fighter pilot who had seen Litvyak in an unidentified PoW camp, has died a few years ago. (Polunina did not specify in which PoW camp was Litvyak incarcerated, so I can't provide you with this information.) Lavrinenkov had served with Litvyak in the same regiment or regiments. His wife is still alive but he may have not confided in her about seeing Litvyak in his PoW camp. Polunina was unable to ascertain this one way or the other. He did confide about seeing Litvyak in their PoW camp in a woman fighter pilot, Klavdiya Pankratova-Tubalova, who is now deceased, according to Polunina’s valuable book.

Please do spare me your sermon about how we like to see our heroes dead. I was in Moscow when Litvyak was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, allegedly posthumously, because Polunina, former chief technician of the 586th Fighter Regiment, had placed a marker on a common grave holding 2000 corpses to acknowledge that the grave supposedly held Litvyak’s body, which was not exhumed. There is no proof whatsoever that Litvyak was buried there according to Polunina herself! She told me she did this only to make Litvyak eligible for receiving the Hero of the Soviet Union medal. Bear in mind that if the fact that Litvyak was captured and seen in a PoW camp was made widely known she would not have been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union.

I am a former (retired) diplomat posted to the Canadian Embassy in Moscow in the late eighties. I also made several trips to the Soviet Union to do my private research and meet with Soviet airwomen veterans. Above all, please spare me your criticism of my performance as a historian. As a former diplomat and scholar with an international reputation who taught at the prestigious University of Toronto and University of Ottawa the last thing I need is your lecture about proper attitudes for a historian. You succeeded in making me extremely angry. What is it about Litvyak that brings out the worst in people? Your apology is in order.
           
 
Hatescrap
replied to: Hatescrap
Replied To:  I have had enough bother with people who believe everything the Sov...
P.S. We don't know the maiden and married names of the woman, former Soviet combat pilot, who appeared on Swiss television on May 9, 2000, the 55th anniversary of the end of the German-Soviet WWII hostilities. It seems that the woman didn't wish to identify herself in case this would bring harm to her relatives in Russia. All we know about her was that she was wounded twice (similarly to Litvyak), settled in Switzerland after the war ended, was married to a Swede and they had three children.
           
 
phrrenaud
replied to: Hatescrap
Replied To:  I have had enough bother with people who believe everything the Sov...
I should have seen it coming: I HAVE LANDED IN THE MIDDLE OF A MINE FIELD. Senior Lieutenant Lydia LIVYAK and her whereabouts seem to be a rather heated subject of discussion. I have obviously used the wrong terminology at the wrong time, and involuntarily lit the fuse to a powder keg. PLEASE ACCEPT MY APOLOGIES FOR HAVING DONE SO.
Why would I bring up “DNA testing” at all? Because I am a part of a frightened generation and do salute Dr. COTTAM’s courage in her relentless pursuit of the truth. I am so frightened to voice an opinion in this so-called “free world” that I automatically come to invoke “irrefutable evidence.” So there you go! “DNA testing if you please,” accompanied by a twist of “polygraph” (that would be “lie detector test” to us the brain washed ignorant people). I thought my intentions were good. In expressing them, however, I forgot that “good intentions” is exactly what paves the road to hell. When one invokes DNA testing, one implies that irrefutable witnesses, as well as the product of complex research on the part of highly competent historians, are unreliable. That is exactly what I did –albeit in an INVOLUNTARY manner. I have involuntarily angered people and bruised feelings –Dr. COTTAM’s in particular. Please give me this opportunity to declare that bruising feelings, doubting a Diplomat and Historian’s credibility, and angering anyone were NOT my intentions. Dr. COTTAM, please accept my apologies.
Let me now address the question of “preaching” and “sermonizing.” The remarks I made about objectivity were really directed at ME and no one else. I should have made this clear. Please forgive me for not doing so. Dr. COTTAM’s response also makes me realize I must have made several typewriting errors. My contention really meant to say the following: “WE DO NOT WANT OUR HEROES TO DIE. WE SOMEHOW WANT TO HANG ON THE POSSIBILITY THAT THEY ARE STILL ALIVE SOMEWHERE SO WE CAN HUMBLY THANK THEM IN PERSON.” I certainly want LITVYAK and BUDANOVA to both still be alive. I just wanted to make sure my worshipping heroes was not clouding my judgment. Again, I should have made that specific.
Who am I to doubt the word of Ekaterina POLUNINA, the 586th Regiment’s Chief Mechanic anyway? Nobody! On top of that, SHE TOO IS ONE OF MY HEROES! More than ever, I wish to review my Russian so I can read her book! Besides, I did not even doubt her word to begin with. I just wanted to bring irrefutable weight to it. However, I hear a voice telling me: “If you want to bring irrefutable weight to someone’s word, then you do not believe what that person is saying, do you!” Rest in Peace Chief Mechanic POLUNINA. I BELIEVE YOU. YOUR WORD IS ALL THE HARD EVIDENCE I NEED. Without your hard work, neither LITVYAK nor BUDANOVA could have taken off the ground –let alone fight the NAZI’s as bravely as they did.
This brings up a rather bothersome question. Why would anyone hang on to the belief that Senior Lieutenant LYDIA LIVYAK died that day? Could it be that her becoming a prisoner of war is somehow tarnishing her hero status? “They shot her down! They captured her! That means she lost!” I do not agree with this type of reasoning. If she was captured and sent to a concentration camp, and survived, it ENHANCES her status as a hero! What goes for Lydia LITVYAK goes for all the Russian prisoners of war. The NAZI’s were not able to bring them down or break them! Hurray for the resilience of these brave men and women! “But what about that radio broadcast she made for the Germans?” I hear somebody say. First, we do not know it was Lydia LITVYAK. Second, do you know what it was like to be a prisoner of the SS? I shall let it rest at that. I do not want to blow up in anger.
I want to thank Dr. COTTAM publically for her response. Not only has she taught me to be careful with what I say (no matter how well intentioned I might be), but she has also supplied all of us with remarkable information. Thank you Dr. COTTAM and, once again, please accept my apologies.
           
 
Hatescrap
replied to: phrrenaud
Replied To:  I should have seen it coming: I HAVE LANDED IN THE MIDDLE OF A MIN...
I am taken aback by the somewhat vehement reaction to my attempt to determine whether or not Litvyak perished on July 31, 1943. I am wondering whether my critic has ever been to the Soviet Union, as I have been (I lived there for six years) and whether he does understand the Soviet mentality pertinent to WWII. All Soviet military personnel who allowed themselves to be captured were mistrusted once they returned to the Soviet Union. Some of them were even incarcerated in forced labour camps following their return. At the very least they were denied the status of Hero of the Soviet Union permanently or were presented with this decoration only after a considerable delay. It was vital for friends and relatives to prove that these individuals perished when they were missing, to preserve their good name and obtain for them the Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously. This is my final comment on this matter.
           
 
Richard77
replied to: phrrenaud
Replied To:  I should have seen it coming: I HAVE LANDED IN THE MIDDLE OF A MIN...
I re-read these messages and am very grateful to Mr. Renaud for having such faith in me, in contrast to some of the Wikipedia followers who have ganged up on me in the past and treated me like dirt. They are obsessed with Litvyak's alleged death in combat.
           
 
Richard77
replied to: Richard77
Replied To:  I re-read these messages and am very grateful to Mr. Renaud for hav...
I have just located a copy of so-called Record Card in my file, which identified Litvyak as of "Russian nationality" and posthumous recipient of the Hero of the Soviet Union (HSU) medal. There is no doubt that Litvyak owed her HSU to the unjustly vilified Yekaterina Polunina, Chief Mechanic of the 586th Fighter Regiment. After all it was Polunina who placed a memorial tablet with Litvyak's name on the mass grave in Krasnyy Luch housing 2,000 bodies, even though there was absolutely no proof that Litvyak was buried there and Litvyak's body was never exhumed from this grave. I am very much against vilifying Polunina, whom I met at the reunion in San Diego (2005) and she presented me with her book, dedicated to me. She wrote: "To dear Kazimiera J. Cottam with gratitude and love." We had a lengthy conversation and she made a very good impression on me. What we are having is a group of people in the West with a completely closed mind who are determined to have Litvyak dead and buried. They are rejecting all evidence, however compelling if it doesn't suit them. Very few Russians escaped to the West, but in the case of Litvyak she was attractive, she may well have married her Swedish husband immediately and once they were in Switzerland the Russian authorities would have a hard time identifying and arresting her. After Litvyak's disappearance her brother was very fearful of being arrested and changed his name-- according to the conversation he had with WASP and author Anne Noggle, who told me all this herself. Nina Raspopova, former night bomber pilot, phoned Polunina immediately after the year 2000 television interview with former Soviet fighter pilot who failed to identify herself but according to Raspopova may have been Lydia Litvyak. How many Soviet female former fighter pilots settled in western Europe? (Bear in mind that Soviet airwomen from the three air regiments trained together and knew each other.) What we are experiencing in North America is a totally closed mindset on this issue. It becomes a sacrilege to suggest she may have survived--she must be dead and buried at all costs and down with everything and everyone that contradicts this mindset. Incidentally, Polunina was not alone in Russia to question Litvyak's demise.