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Lilya Litvak – Lydia Litvyak The White Rose of Stalingrad*

Photo: Tov sergeant

Lidya Litvak (Lydia Litvyak)

Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak – Лидия Владимировна Литвяк, also known as Lilya, was a Jewish fighter pilot in the Soviet Air Force during World War II. Historians’ estimates for her total victories range from five to twelve solo victories and two to four shared kills in her 66 combat sorties. Her father, like my Grandfather, was sent to a gulag by Stalin.

Heroines of the Soviet Union – Lydia Litvyak

Stories of one of the winners of the USSR’s highest award for bravery and service to the people.

Lydia Litvyak was called the “the White Rose of Stalingrad”, or the White Lily. During her combat, she claimed 14 kills.

She shot down Staff Sergeant Erwin Maier, a German ace. He parachuted down and was taken prisoner. He asked to see if it was true that he was shot down by a woman and he was allowed to meet her. He could not believe he was shot down by a female pilot—and by a Jew no less– and only when she accurately described all the maneuvers in the flight that he knew it was true.

White Rose of Stalingrad – Tribute to the best female ace in world war 2.

Last mission

In her last mission, Litvyak took off for her last mission from an airfield close to this city, where a museum dedicated to her is located.

On August 1, 1943, Litvyak did not come back to her base at Krasnyy Luch. As the Soviets were returning to base near Orel, a pair of Bf 109 fighters dove on Litvyak while she was attacking a large group of German bombers.

Soviet pilot Ivan Borisenko recalled: “Lily just didn’t see the Messerschmitt 109s flying cover for the German bombers. A pair of them dove on her and when she did see them she turned to meet them. Then they all disappeared behind a cloud.”

Borisenko, involved in the dogfight, saw her the last time, through a gap in the clouds, her Yak-1 pouring smoke and pursued by as many as eight Bf 109s. Borisenko descended to see if he could find her. No parachute was seen, and no explosion, yet she never returned from the mission. She may have been taken prisoner by the Nazis. Litvyak was 21 years old.

Yak-1 of Lilya Litvak


The White Rose of Stalingrad: PUBLISHER Bloomsbury Publishing, RELEASED:Feb 20, 2013, ISBN:9781782009122

Heroines of the Soviet Union 1941–45: PUBLISHER Bloomsbury Publishing, RELEASED:Apr 20, 2012, ISBN:9781780966519

The Short, Daring Life of Lilya Litvyak

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