What’s Past is Prologue
The USSR was the only Allied nation that sent women pilots into combat during World War II. They operated both as bomber pilots and fighter pilots – their bombing missions, in obsolete bi-planes from which they harassed German troops on the Eastern Front under cover of darkness and using the silence of cut engines to gain them precious seconds of surprise, earned them the nickname Nachthexen – night witches, in English. Other Soviet women flew fighter aircraft, most in an all-female squadron, but occasionally also in mixed squadrons. Check out the Wikipedia article on Soviet_Women_in_World_War_II for more information on these remarkable women.
In Rose Under Fire, one of my characters is a Soviet fighter pilot who ends up imprisoned at Ravensbrück. Thousands of captured female Soviet Army soldiers were imprisoned there. I know of one female Soviet aviator, the navigator Nina Karasova, who was still in her teens when she was shot down, captured, and detained in Ravensbrück for three weeks before being sent to Buchenwald for the duration of the war. The Soviet pilot Anna Timofeyeva-Yegorova was shot down and imprisoned in a German prisoner-of-war camp for Allied soldiers (all men) in Poland. There may be others like them I’ve not encountered.
Anna Timofeyeva-Yegorova is one of my inspirations for my imaginary Soviet woman pilot. Another is Lilya Litvyak, the ‘White Rose of Stalingrad,’ who shot down 12 Luftwaffe aircraft while flying as a combat pilot for the Soviet Air Force in World War II. Still another is Yekaterina Zelenko, who is the only woman known to have made a taran attack against a German plane. The German pilot was killed. Witnesses said that Zelenko survived the attack but was shot down and killed by another Luftwaffe fighter.