The Battle Draws Near

This is part 4 of a series of excerpts from Yegorova’s memoir, posted 70 years after the events in question. In this entry (from late summer of 1941), Anna flies her U2 biplane to a small village, only to find that the battle has already arrived.

“Along the road out of Kalarovka, a frantic mass streamed from the village. A roiling chaos of people and soldiers mingled with cattle, carts laden with household items, and military vehicles. Half-ton trucks sped along the side, and infantry men hurried along in small clusters instead of the usual orderly marching columns.

I landed the airplane on a hill near a windmill…and shut the engine down…The crackle of gunfire rose form the valley, along with the terrified lowing of cattle and the roar of vehicles and fleeing people. Panic seized me. There could be no doubt now. The battle was coming our way…I could see the front line a half-kilometer away, a thunder of war advancing from the west.

In minutes, the fighting would tear into the silence of those pensive little houses perched along the valley’s edge. And so it did. The first explosion smashed into the quiet streets; then a second rang out…one of the hut roofs caught fire…frightened birds swirled up into the sky. The blunt snouts of tanks scrolled across the landscape as if across a movie screen. They ground along on their caterpillar tracks, spitting flames. Their gun barrels seemed to point right toward my little hill, where the U-2 presented an excellent target.

Indeed, a shell burst right next to the windmill, sending me running toward the airplane…”

-Anna Timofeyeva-Yegrova,  Red Sky, Black Death, A Soviet Woman Pilot’s Memoir of the Eastern Front


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