On the photo (from left to right): Liliya Litvyak, Ekaterina Budanova, Maria Kuznetsova
Against the background of the whole war, with its many heroes, the feat of fighter pilots stands apart. Despite the seeming simplicity and even similarity of biographies, eternal questions lie in their fate: what fed their lofty principles, what ideals did these weak strong women take with them?
In early September, the 1942 of the year at the aerodrome of the city of Engels in the Saratov region took place early gatherings, which, like much of the war, were shrouded in mystery. Eight brave girls, trained as fighter pilots, prepared to fly into the thick of the war - on the Stalingrad front.
Hundreds of volunteers besieged the building in which the commission met. There was a separate conversation with each of the girls. In Engels, the then-famous pilot, Hero of the Soviet Union Maria Raskova formed three flight regiments. One of them is a fighter regiment aviation. Among those enrolled were Raisa Belyaeva, Ekaterina Budanova, Klavdia Blinova, Antonina Lebedeva, Lilia Litvyak, Maria Kuznetsova, Klavdia Nechaeva and Olga Shakhova, who had already entered the women's aviation unit of M. Raskova in Moscow in the fall of 1941. Girls who not only graduated from pilot schools, but also became flight instructors themselves. Photos of some of them appeared on the pages of newspapers and magazine covers - they participated in the famous air parades.
They were children of a great era — tragic and heroic. Passion for aviation was one of the most striking phenomena of those years.
In 30, a wide network of flying clubs was created in the country. And after work, the youth rushed to the airfields. The pilot and writer Antoine de Saint Exupery wrote about the romance of air flying: “The most important thing? This, perhaps, is not the high joys of the craft and not the dangers, but the point of view to which they raise a person. ” For many aeroclub cadets, interest in aviation was connected, no matter how pathetic it may seem today, with a sincere need to serve the Fatherland.
Maria Kuznetsova told me about how they studied in Engels: “They started with the fact that they themselves dug the dugouts in which they settled. Before the war, we flew low-speed aircraft U-2. Now we had to learn the Yak-1 fighter. We did 12-14 hours per day. On the ground, they studied the plane to the last screw. We had experienced instructors. One after another - began to fly fighter jets. Led training air "battles", experiencing large overload. When leaving the dive, the body seemed to be filled with lead. But they tried to master the aerobatics as best they could, clearly realizing that this was precisely the skill of the fighter pilot. ”
“We were given only a few months to study,” recalled Klavdiya Blinova-Kudlenko. - Reports Sovinformburo brought heavy messages. Our troops were retreating. We knew that there were not enough pilots at the front, and were eager to fight. Do not believe it - anxiety for the fate of the Fatherland was then more important to us than our own life. In the summer of 1942, we already began to make combat flights: German aircraft began to appear in the skies over Saratov. We carried guards on residential areas, defense factories, and a bridge across the Volga on the Yaks. ”
Lilia Litvyak (pictured) was a Muscovite. She lived on Novoslobodskaya Street with her mother and younger brother. From a young age she was fond of aviation. She passed the course in the aeroclub and graduated from the Kherson school of pilots. In May 1941, the magazine Samolet named it among the best instructors of Moscow flying clubs. Anyone who knew Lilia Litvyak remembers her passion for poetry, how she carefully copied her favorite poems into thick notebooks. She sang in the air, although the voices were not heard behind the noise of the motor. But then there was the joy of living and the joy of flying.
Lyrical innocence and perseverance to exhaustion in the work - naturally combined in her character.
Inna Passportnikova-Pleshivtseva, a former mechanical technician, told me: “At first glance at Lily, it was difficult to imagine that she would become a brave fighter in the air. This beautiful girl looked fragile, tender, feminine. Watched her appearance. Her blond hair was always twisted. I remember that they gave us fur boots, at night Lily cut off the casing on them and, having fashioned a fashionable collar out of it, sewed it on the flight jacket. In the morning on the construction, Maria Raskova made a stern remark to her. But she knew both - this girl has a strong-willed character.
You had to see - with what persistence she mastered the new technique! How easily she treated the exhausting overloads with which fighter flights were connected!
In her letter to her family - not a trace of fatigue or doubt. She writes to her mother and younger brother: “You can congratulate me - she flew out on her own on Yak with an excellent rating. My old dream came true. You can consider me a "natural" fighter. Very happy ... "
Ekaterina Budanova was born and raised in the village of Konoplyanka, Smolensk Region. The family lost her father early. From an early age, Katya took up any work to help her relatives — she hired as nannies, worked in foreign gardens. Arriving in Moscow, she learned the profession of a locksmith, worked at an aircraft factory. Came to the flying club. Yesterday’s rookie was literally seized by the romance of aviation. Katya Budanova, at her request, was sent to the Kherson school of pilots. So the flight business became her profession. She worked as an instructor in the Central Aeroclub named after V.P. Chkalov. Shortly before the war, she wrote to her mother: “I fly from morning till night. This summer I think to prepare 16 pilots for the Red Army. ”
In the 1941 year, when forming the women's aviation unit, Maria Raskova said about her: "We already have such wonderful pilots as Katya Budanova."
The same Inna Passportnikova-Pleshivtseva said: “Katya Budanova outwardly tried to look like a boy. High, strong, with a firm gait, wide, sweeping gestures. From under the cap was visible a log. As a joke, they called her Volodya. In the evenings, during the hours of rest, she said: “Sing, girls!” She had a beautiful, strong voice. Kate knew a lot of folk songs, ditties. It was - fun, gambling.
From Engels, Katya wrote to her mother: “Mother, dear mother! Do not be offended at me for the fact that without your permission I fly away to the front. My duty and my conscience oblige to be where the fate of the motherland is decided. Tightly kiss, say hello to little sister Ole. Katyusha.
10 September 1942, eight fighter pilots on their Yaki-1 flew towards Stalingrad. Even from afar, they saw clouds of smoke rising into the sky of a burning city. They landed at a field airfield, which was located on the left bank of the Volga. To the front line - just a few minutes of summer.
Klavdiya Blinova-Kudlenko recalled how skeptical they had to hear at the aerodrome: “They waited for replenishment, and the girls were sent to us. Here is the front, not the club. ” “We were not offended. They believed in themselves. Let us show in the air: it’s not in vain that the Yaks have entrusted us. ”
It was a tough time. The fighting in Stalingrad went on the ground and in the air.
Air combat is a serious challenge even for a seasoned fighter. Not every man-aviator can even become a fighter pilot.
“In the fighter cockpit — you are alone in three faces,” Klava Blinova-Kudlenko told me. - The pilot leads the plane, and at the same time he and the navigator, and the shooter. The battle in the sky is fast. The response of the pilot must be instantaneous. You turn your head at 360 degrees. All that you can, you need to invest in these seconds "...
In the very first days, Liliya Litvyak surprised everyone. On her account immediately appeared downed German aircraft. It remains to describe the battle in which she participated in September 1942. Former flight navigator B.A. Gubin recalled:
“The regiment commander, Major Mikhail Khvostikov, who flew in a pair with Sergeant Lilia Litvyak, along with other fighters attacked a line of bombers heading for the Stalingrad Tractor Plant. Major's plane was shot down and went away. Lilia Litvyak, continuing the attack, approached the bomber and hit a plane from 30 meters. Then, together with the pilot Belyaeva, they engaged in battle with the enemy fighters who had approached. Belyaeva and Litvyak went to the tail of one enemy plane, fired at it and lit it. ”
Veterans remembered such history. One day Lilia Litvyak was summoned by the regimental commander. She saw a captured German pilot in the room. There were three iron crosses on his chest. When the regiment commander, through an interpreter, told the prisoner that his plane was hit by a girl pilot, he refused to believe it.
Lilia Litvyak hands portrayed turns in the sky, which made to hit his car. The German pilot lowered his head. He had to admit - that was how it was.
22 March 1943, Lilia Litvyak was wounded in aerial combat. With difficulty, the pilot brought a plane riddled with shrapnel to the airfield: pain penetrated her leg. Litvyak was sent to the hospital. After treatment, she was given leave for a month. She met with her mother and brother. But a week later she went to the front and rose again to the sky.
Subsequently, the Hero of the Soviet Union B.N. Eremin will write about her: “Lilia Litvyak was a born pilot. She was bold and resolute, inventive and cautious. She could see the air. ”
At the same time, Ekaterina Budanova opened an account of the downed aircraft. An entry appeared in her notebook: “6 in October 1942 in. Attacked a group of 8 aircraft. 1 set on fire, fell to the right of Vladimirovka. ”
On that day, German bombers appeared near the only remaining railway on the left bank of the Volga, on which troops and ammunition were delivered to Stalingrad. Thrown from a height, the Yaks violated the structure of the German aircraft. Some were shot down, others threw bombs in the steppe, not reaching the target.
October 7 1942 of the year - another victory: Ekaterina Budanova together with Raisa Belyaeva attacked a group of German bombers, shot down one of them.
In those days, Ekaterina Budanova wrote from her front to her sister:
“Olya, my dear! Now my whole life is given to the fight against the hated enemy. I want to tell you that I am not afraid of death, but I do not want it, and if I have to die, I will not give my life. My winged Yak is a good car and only heroes will die with it. Be healthy dear. Kisses. Katya".
Deadly risk and exhausting fatigue, tension of the battle and natural gelling to survive - such were the front-line everyday life, which Katya Budanova, like other pilots, took with silent patience.
Former squadron commander I. Domnin recalled:
“I often had to fly with Katya in a group. She was painfully worried if she had to remain on duty on the ground. She sought to fight. When I flew with her in a pair, I was sure that she was covering me securely and would not lag behind in any maneuver in a difficult situation. Twice in the sorties she saved my life. ”
Her front-line biography was captured in short lines of combat reports, in which the descriptions of the battles, the score of the downed aircraft: “In November, the 1942 of Budanov as a member of the group destroyed two Messerschmitt-109” and personally shot down the “Junkers-88”. On January 8 Budanov together with the regimental commander Baranov fought with the four Fokkers. One of the enemy aircraft was shot down. From a close explosion, the Yak-1, which was run by Budanov, threw in the air ... In an air battle, the plane of Lavrinenkov was riddled with shrapnel. Budanov covered his plane before returning to the airfield. ”
Maria Kuznetsova said: “When I remember Katya, it’s as if I hear her voice. She loved the song that had these words:
Propeller, sing a louder song,
Carrying spread wings.
For everlasting peace, the last battle
Steel squadron is flying!
Catherine Budanov was assigned to the group of aces pilots who flew out to a “free hunt”. Her handwriting in the sky was called “Chkalovsky,” so risky and confident were the aerobatics she performed in the air, seeking victory.
The aircraft, on which the fighter pilots fought, were served by tech-girls. They also flew in from Engels, where they received training.
“The life of a pilot depended on our work,” said Inna Passportnikova-Pleshitseva. - We made planes mostly at night. All by hand. At the front of the airfield there were no adaptations. Worked in any weather - in the rain, piercing wind. After all, you will not wait for a puddle to dry under the plane. In winter, fingers stuck to the cold metal. We were given warm gloves. But we did not wear them - our hands lost their knack, the work went slower. Once in a muddy even froze to the ground. But we were not discouraged — we were encouraging each other. ”
After the combat flights, the pilot's soul demanded a discharge. “It seems impossible to believe in it, but we knew how to enjoy life, even in such a disturbing situation,” said Maria Kuznetsova. - Youth took its toll. The pilots often gathered to sing their favorite songs, started up a phonograph, and the sounds of foxtrots and tango rang across the steppe, the sounds of champagne splash and Rio-Rita sounded. Someone took the button accordion and danced the "gypsy". But there has always been a heavy heart: someone will not return from the flight tomorrow? For someone this evening will be the last in life? "
And yet, despite the constant risk with which combat flights were associated, the young people wanted to love and be loved. Lilia Litvyak wrote in a letter to her mother and brother about her experiences:
“What awaits the new year? So many interesting things ahead, so many surprises, accidents. Or something very big, great or everything can collapse ... "
Her premonitions were not deceived. Lilia Litvyak expected great love, which will result in tragedy. In combat reports, two names began to appear next: Lilia Litvyak and Alexey Solomatin. They often flew a pair. Alexey gave a command in the air: “Cover! Attack! ”When the pilots landed, Alexey, tearing off a bunch of steppe flowers, ran to the plane Litvyak:“ Lily! You are a miracle! ”
Alexey Solomatin fought 1941 of the year. He was one of the best pilots in the sky of Stalingrad. In the flying environment, his name was associated with a living legend. At Stalingrad, seven pilots under the command of Captain Boris Eremin attacked a group of twenty-five German bombers, which were covered by fighters. In this unequal battle, our pilots came out victorious without losing a single aircraft! Some enemy vehicles were shot down, others scattered. The details of this battle, in which Alexey Solomatin participated, were studied in aviation regiments in those days.
“Both of them, Alexey and Lilya, were amazingly beautiful,” recalled I. Passportnikova-Pleshivtseva. - When they walked nearby, people smiled, looking at them. Such tenderness glowed in their eyes. They did not hide that they love each other. "
However, according to veterans, there were vigilant commanders who decided to separate them - to separate them in different regiments. Someone thought that a love relationship could interfere in battle. Having learned about the upcoming separation, Lilya and Aleksey went to the commander of the aviation unit. They say Lily burst into tears, urging to leave them together. And this order was canceled.
But instead of gentle dates, they were awaited by the terrible sky of war, where every second life could end. They fought anxiously for each other.
It happened in May 1943, when after the victory in Stalingrad, battles began for the liberation of Donbass. In the newspapers, a decree was then issued on conferring on Alexey Solomatin the title of Hero of the Soviet Union: he had 17 shot down German aircraft. The regiment congratulated the brave pilot with a high award. By that time, Alexey and Lily became husband and wife. But they were released short happiness. 21 May Alexey Solomatin crashed in front of Lily.
“That day, together with Lilia Litvyak, we were at the airport,” Inna Pasportnikova-Pleshivtseva recalled. - We sat side by side on the plane of the plane. We watched the training air "battle", which Alexey Solomatin led with a young pilot who had just arrived in the unit. Over our heads were performed complex shapes. Suddenly, one of the aircraft entered a steep peak and every second began to approach the ground. Explosion! All rushed to the site of the crash. Lily and I immediately sat down in the lump, which was rushing in that direction. Were sure that the young pilot crashed. But it turned out that Alexey Solomatin was killed. It is difficult to convey how desperate Lily was ... The command offered her leave, but she refused. "I will fight!" - Lily repeated ... After the death of Alexei, with even more bitterness, she began to fly out on combat missions. "
Lily survived another shock. 19 July 1943, her close friend Katya Budanova died. Covering a group of bombers, she joined the battle with the German "Messerschmitt". She shot down one of the enemy aircraft, but her plane was also pierced by machine gun fire. She was badly injured. Her Yak-1 landed in a field, near the village of Novo-Krasnovka. Running through the cracked ground, the plane turned over. In the overalls of the deceased pilots, the peasants found the documents covered in blood and handed them over to the command.
Short was their road from romance to a terrible reality. One after another, the fighter pilots from the "first draft" group, who had flown to fight in the Stalingrad sky, died.
Raisa Belyaeva was fatally wounded on July 19 1943 of the year in an air battle over Voronezh. Antonina Lebedeva, who fought at the Kursk Bulge, died on July 17 1943 (her remains were found by Oryol trackers only in the year 1982). The fate of pilots Claudia Blinova was dramatic: she was shot down over enemy territory. Pilot landed on a parachute, captured. Together with other prisoners of war she managed to jump out of the train car on the move. For two weeks she wandered in the woods before crossing the front line. I got to my aviation unit.
1 August 1943 did not return from battle Lily Litvyak. This happened near the city of Anthracite, Luhansk region. Hero of the Soviet Union I.I. Borisenko recalled:
“We flew in the composition of the eight Yak-1. Above the enemy's territory they saw a group of bombers, which followed the front line. Attacked them with a turn. But during the battle, the Messerschmitts rushed to a pair of our fighters. The battle went behind the clouds. One of the Yaks, puffing, went to the ground. After landing at the airport, we learned that Litvyak had not returned from the mission. All were particularly hard for this loss. She was a wonderful person and pilot! After the liberation of this area, we tried to find the place of her death, but we never found it. ”
Pilot Lilia Litvyak has long been considered missing. Years passed, while in the town of Krasny Luch of the Luhansk region teacher VI. Vashchenko together with schoolchildren did not begin to collect materials about the soldiers who liberated these places, including the dead pilots. In the Kozhevnya farm, the residents led the rangers to a deep gully and told the following story. Here in early August, the Soviet aircraft dropped 1943. The deceased pilot was first buried on the slope of the beam. And when his remains began to be transferred to the mass grave of a neighboring village, an entry appeared in one of the protocols: apparently, the woman drove the shot down plane. This was evidenced by the remains of the pilot, as well as half-decayed objects of the women's toilet. Teacher V.I. Vashchenko raised documents. Found veterans. To the trackers came I.V. Passportnikova-Pleshivtseva. On the charred fragments of aircraft parts, which the trackers found during the excavations, she determined: the Yak-1 fell here. There was no other female pilot who died in the area at the beginning of August 1943. The special commission made a conclusion: Lilia Litvyak was buried here.
In the town of Krasny Luch, in front of the school building No. 1, a monument was erected to a brave pilot.
Lilia Litvyak made 168 sorties. She was wounded three times. According to the number of victories won, it is called the most productive among female pilots who fought on fighters.
Lilia Litvyak hit German aircraft 12 and 4 in the group. In 1990, she was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously.
On account of Catherine Budanova 266 combat missions. She hit a German aircraft 11. In 1993, she was awarded the title Hero of Russia.
However, in our time there have appeared articles in which other, more modest results of aerial victories, which fighter pilots scored, are called. However, no errors of such calculations detract from the feat of these brave girls.
Decades after Victory, we need more than just war statistics. The descendants are left with pages of history that capture the features of the moral world of the front-line generation. And this is the real spiritual Universe, after the prescription of years in many respects - the unknown.
During the war, the French pilots of the Normandie-Niemen regiment, seeing girls pilots at the front, wrote:
"If you could collect flowers from all over the world and put them at your feet, even with this we would not be able to express our admiration for the Soviet pilots."