A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II
This is the story of Raskova’s three regiments, women who enlisted and were deployed on the front lines of battle as navigators, pilots, and mechanics. It is the story of a thousand young women who wanted to take flight to defend their country, and the woman who brought them together in the sky.
Packed with black-and-white photographs, fascinating sidebars, and thoroughly researched details, A Thousand Sisters is the inspiring true story of a group of women who set out to change the world, and the sisterhood they formed even amid the destruction of war.
Life in the Soviet Military
A Thousand Sisters tells the story of Soviet Airwomen in great detail, drawing on the experiences of many women pilots, some of whom survived the war, and many of whom did not. From the aviation experiences of pilots who ended up being in the 46th Taman Guards Night Bomber Aviation Regiment, to the set up of the Soviet military and the experiences of the women after the war, there is a wealth of detail about missions, living conditions, and the trajectory of the war in general, as it affected these brave women.
My favorite chapter was entitled "Life is Life" and discusses the difficulties and deprivations that these women faced. Since so few women were in the military, they had to endure wearing men's boots and underwear, and supplies were so scarce that often had to wash with water from puddles. While my own grandparents often complained about rationing, I know that they never had to eat wall paper paste or boiled shoes! These are excellent details to make the more quotidianal horrors of war come to life.
It's also hard to remember that in the 1920s and 30s, women were making a lot of progress in many occupations. I loved the statistic that in 1941, nearly one third of all Soviet pilots were female! This mirrors the strides women made in the US workforce before the end of the war returned women all over the world to the kitchen, despite the fact that they had proven that they could do "men's" work.
While this is a rather lengthy book, it would be perfect for National History Day projects on the role of women along with Mary Cronk Farrell's Pure Grit: How WWII Nurses in the Pacific Survived Combat and Prison Camp and and is a perfect companion for explaining the details of Kathryn Lasky's The Night Witches (2017).