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A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of The Soviet Union in World War II

by Elizabeth Wein

Published by Balzer + Bray, 2019
388 pages
ISBN: 978-0-06-245301-3

Age 13 and older

A substantial and arresting history of Soviet women flying combat missions during World War II begins with the rise of the Communist party in Russia. Its stated commitment to equal opportunities for men and women was not the reality, but a generation of young women grew up with opportunities to learn how to fly in Communist youth clubs. All Soviet citizens were expected to prepare for the (inevitable) Future War. When the Germans invaded in 1941, Marina Raskova, the country’s most famous women pilot, successfully lobbied to create a women’s air force combat unit. Eventually 1,000 young women joined this effort to fight in the Soviet Union’s “Great Patriotic War.” Some were pilots, some navigators, some assigned to ground crew in three regiments: 588th Night Bomber Aviation (in biplanes), 587th Bomber Aviation (larger bombers with a crew of 3), and the 586th Fighter Aviation (solo fighter pilots). A lengthy, compelling narrative describes their training, stress and frustrations, frightening missions, bonds formed (as well as some friction), losses endured, skepticism and sexism faced and overcome (because “equality” in words does not equate equality in action or attitude), and the respect they earned among many male colleagues and commanders. A book that does not glorify war does illuminate the commitment and skill of these women, many of whose individual stories unfold. Notes, an extensive bibliography and index are included. ©2019 Cooperative Children’s Book Center


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