Headline Oct 06, 2014/


SHE WAS a wild spirit, easily bored; she loved to tango, foxtrot, sing along to jazz. It made her feel free-

Which was also why at  15   she had joined a flying club without telling her parents.

A pilot had landed his aircraft one day outside their town,  Donetsk in Ukraine, astonishing as a god fallen to earth. In his leather jacket.

From that moment she too wanted to soar like a bird.

Walking towards a plane, every time, she would get a knot in her stomach, every time she took off, she was thrilled all over again.  

Often she flew in  pitch dark and freezing air. In an aircraft so frail, the wind could toss her over.

Its swishing glide sounded, to the sleepless Germans, like a witch's broomstick passing; so to them she was one of the Nachthexen, or Night Witches.

To the Russian marines trapped on the beach at Malaya Zemiya, to whom she dropped food and medicine late in  1942-

She sounded more like an Angel.

She had to fly so low that she heard their cheers. Later she found bullet holes in her plane. 

LOVING LIFE  as she did   -running barefoot in the grass, exulting the cherry tress that flowered outside her bedroom window-
It was odd she had suddenly wanted  ''the freedom to die.

It took no time, though.

The moment the German invasion was announced,  in June 1941, she abandoned the dance-dress she was ironing and ran to the airfield.

She was one of the first to enlist in her regiment, demanding to be a fighter pilot. Soon enough, too, she had personal reasons to hate Germans.

They killed her brother Leonid in the first month of the war.

In August,  1942,  having crash-landed  her plane in the North Caucasus, she saw Stukas bombing the desperate columns of refugees on the road. Her family home was commandeered by the Gestapo-

The windows smashed and the cherry trees cut down.

The worst was to lose friends.

Eight died in a single sortie once when she was leading the mission, as hulking Messerschmitts attacked them in the dazzle of the search lights.

To right and left each tiny  PO-2  went down like a  falling torch.

She never cried as much as when she returned to base and saw the girls' bunks with letters they had never finished writing.

She was tough  ''No time for fear'' and surprised at her increasing toughness as the war went on.

But she was a woman. too.

The military men never let them forget it,  mocking   ''the skirt regiment'',  and even when its members had become heroines in the press. The women expected it, and did just fine without them.

It was fun, though,  to organize dances with the men,  many of them fell in love, and so did  Nadia Popova, with a blue eyed bandaged pilot she spotted under a tree:

Another god fallen to earth.

He warned her not make him laugh. as she clearly wanted to, because his wounds hurt.

She read him poetry instead, and when she found her Semyon again for good it was the Reichstag in Berlin in  1945, where they wrote their names in victorious pencil on the walls.

Instead of her  beetle brooch she eventually wore on her smart-dark suit the medal of a   -Hero Of  The Soviet Union :

The Order of Friendship,  the Order of Lenin and three Orders of the Patriotic War.

With enormous pride she sported them, a beaming blonde among the men.

She admitted she stood gazing at the night sky sometimes, wondering how she had ever managed to perform such feats up there.

Well,  came her down- to -earth answer, because:

''You had to and you did''.

With respectful dedication to the Human Spirit. See Ya on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' Digital Prize '''

'''Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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