Interview with Olga Mikhaylovna Lisikova
Interview was conducted by Oleg Korytov and Konstantin
Chirkin © in St. Petersburg, Russia
Transcribed and edited by Igor Zhidov ©
English translation by James F. Gebhardt ©
Translation edited by Ilya Grinberg ©
is Olga Mikhaylovna Lisikova. I hold the military rank
of Guards Senior Lieutenant, and I am a holder of the
honorary badge of the city of Saint-Petersburg.
My father was Leonid Leontevich Vlasov, a teacher; my
stepfather Matvey Mikhaylovich Temin was the secretary
of the Gdovsk regional party committee. Opposite the
former regional council building they constructed a
memorial to him. He was a partisan detachment commander
and perished [in the war].
Mama, before her arrival in Leningrad, was a housewife.
In Leningrad she worked in the public catering system
(obshepit), and joined the Party in 1924.
In 1934, through the path of the Komsomol, approximately
12 Leningraders, I among them, traveled to Tambov
civilian flight school. There were already four young
girls there. And in 1936, all of the young girls from
Balashov and Tambov schools transferred to Bataysk
flight school, where a female squadron was being formed.
It consisted of three detachments, in accordance with
the year of training: first—initial training, and so on.
They placed me in the 3rd Squadron from the outset.
I completed training in 1937.
difficult to get to flight school?
me this was no problem. Both in school, and later also
in the air force, I was considered to be one of the best
athletes. They created special conditions for me in
Bataysk; I had my own daily schedule. Two times I was
the top skier in the Soviet Union. But I was involved in
many forms of sport, and quite often they took me out of
training, even the terka.
This term is an abbreviation for teoreticheskoye
obucheniye (theoretical instruction). This
training served two purposes — to impart theory
and also to round off the cadets’ rough edges.
from the head office came in.
“You have to win in tennis!”
They took me out of training and I played tennis. I was
a good runner, and played billiards exceptionally well.
When I came to the billiard parlor, a line formed of
those whose dream was to defeat me. But nothing came of
their dreams, because I had, and they discovered this
later, some kind of exceptionally accurate vision. I hit
the ball into the precise pocket that was required. I
strutted like a golden-eye, hands in pockets, as I
knocked them down like a pool shark.
the young women have a problem with predominantly male
were no problems. They treated us surprisingly simply
and properly. Many of the girls later married their
I will tell you of a very typical incident for me. One
time I was leaving the stadium, and suddenly some
journalists who had come to our school appealed to me
with a request for assistance. “Lady,” they said. “We
came here to take your photograph, and we cannot obtain
jump-suits—the quartermaster store is closed.”
I ran out into the street, looked toward the
quartermaster store—on the third floor, but the small
ventilation window was open. I went into a nearby room,
with absolute confidence removed my training pants, took
off my shoes, crawled out the window, and looked around.
Almost all of the cadets and journalists had run out
into the street. I had to negotiate two stages. I looked
down at the concrete; if I fell, goodbye to flight
school. What would help me? I had just come from the
stadium, was still all sweaty, and when I placed my
hands on the wall, it was as if they stuck to it a
little bit. I was able to make two steps. I went through
the window. Again I “took aim,” but at that moment one
of my feet slipped. There was no foothold there. The
crowd gasped! But I got up, crawled through the
ventilation window, and opened the quartermaster store
from the inside.
After this the journalists did not want to photograph
anyone except me. “Olga, come here! Olga, go there!”
In 1937 a film came out: Bogatyri nashey Rodiny!
[Warriors of our motherland] And if you are able to see
it, you would see only me, although the film was an
artistic work. After that our young men could not pass
by without calling out to me, “star of the screen!”
aircraft did you fly in training?
U-2 for the first and second courses, and the R-5 for
the last course.
Both aircraft were manufactured by Polikarpov.
The U-2 was a biplane with a 100-hp radial
engine. It was employed in many roles during the
war, including night bomber, air ambulance, and
liaison aircraft. Its loaded weight was
approximately 2,000 pounds. The R-5, also a
biplane, had a 680-hp V-12 engine, with a top
speed in the 150 mph range and ceiling of
approximately 20,000 feet. Its maximum loaded
weight was 6,550 pounds. It also was used as a
night bomber and liaison aircraft during the
talked about a female squadron. Whom among your
classmates can you remember?
Sima Motseva—she was an exceptional pilot. She was
Bershanskaya’s deputy for flight activity.
whose last name I have forgotten, received the rank Hero
of the Soviet Union in Bershanskaya’s regiment. Several
young women from Leningrad were washed out for failure
to progress in flight training. For example, Ogurtsova
entered a medical institute and became an outstanding
were graduates assigned out to units?
perhaps they were sent where there was a shortage of
pilots. I personally selected [my own assignment].
Many did not master the heavy R-5, but did master the
U-2. The U-2 was broadly employed for liaison and for
medical assistance. There was a medical evacuation
variant of the U-2.
I completed training with distinction, and was able to
choose where to go. Of course, I selected Leningrad. In
Leningrad I was immediately assigned to a training
detachment. At that time it was comprised only of men.
Our instructor, Lebedev, checked me out on the R-5. I
remind you—this was a chief pilot, who later became
Zhukov’s personal pilot. But then he was an instructor.
He gave me a check ride and then assigned me another
task, and he himself ran off like a crazy man, it turned
out, to the chief of the training detachment. I looked
up, and here came the chief of the training detachment,
Gosha (Grigoriy) Semenov. Now he gave me a task, I did
it, everything that he ordered: zooms, various turns,
stall, et cetera. Well, I did everything and then landed
the airplane. He said nothing. Later they told me that
he called Volodya (Vladimir) Drozdov, the commander of
the 31st Detachment, which serviced the Leningrad–Moscow
route, and they had the following conversation:
“I would like to recommend a pilot to you.”
“I don’t need any pilots right now.”
“Don’t you understand? I am recommending a special pilot
to you. Lebedev and I checked her out and this is the
first time we have encountered such a pilot. Whatever
you tell her to do, she does it. Go ahead, try it. Give
her an assignment.”
“This is a woman?”
“Exactly—a woman. Give her an assignment.”
Olga Mikhaylovna Vlasova (I was a Vlasova at that time)
received an assignment—to execute a flight from
Leningrad to Moscow and return. Then I understood why
they gave me this particular assignment—in order to get
me out of their hair.
I had never before flown this route, so I began to
prepare for the flight. First I went to the navigational
department and consulted with them; then I talked with
pilots who normally flew this route. After that I went
to the radio specialists. At that time, radio-navigation
worked thusly: If you deviated to the right of course,
you heard a “ta-a... ta-a... ta-a...” in your earphones.
If you deviated to the left of course, you heard “ta,
ta, ta”—short “dots.” If you were flying precisely on
course, you heard this sound: “ta – ta-a, ta – ta-a.”
Radio-navigation had become very necessary during
flights in overcast, and the Valday Hills were often
covered in clouds.
I picked up a parachute. (Until this time, I do not
understand why I needed a parachute in an R-5). I was in
the forward cabin and had full controls. Drozdov (he
also had a parachute) had only a stick. When I completed
this flight and landed, he did not write any notes, and
stated only general words: “A few good points, and also
a few deficiencies; but with time, you will work them
We walked up to the group, and there stood Valeriy
Chkalov, Zaytsev, and Misha Gromov.
It was in
essence the whole ensemble. One from Tbilisi, another
from Tashkent, somehow the small clique had assembled.
Drozdov greeted Chkalov (they had flown together in a
fighter regiment at Gatchina), and said, while
introducing me, “This is our future ‘ace,’” and pointed
To me, he said, “Tomorrow you will take the moulds; you
will fly alone, at 0500.”
talking about the newspaper moulds?
special “mould” flight hauled them. Early in the morning
you flew out from Moscow and landed at 1000. They
collected up the moulds and already by 1200 Leningrad
received its newspaper, printed from these moulds. Over
all this time, there was not a single day when Leningrad
remained without a newspaper! Our flights absolutely did
not depend on the weather. If the overcast was “milky,”
they assigned the flight to an experienced pilot. So I
was included in this rotation.
did you say that on the R-5, a parachute was not
look; it did not climb to more than 600 meters, well,
maybe a 1,000. It did not have an autopilot. The pilot
had a stick. How could you climb out of it? In very rare
situations it might be possible, but very rarely. A
parachute was quite unnecessary.
Our detachment received the PR-5—a so-called passenger
limousine. It was very well streamlined, and had greater
speed than the R-5. If the R-5 could fly 160 km\h, then
the PR-5 could fly 200. The PR-5 had a closed cabin that
seated four, and the pilot also was enclosed in his own
cabin. Why do I remember this? I was flying this
aircraft, but on one occasion a telegram arrived in
Leningrad. I was to immediately ferry the aircraft and
turn it over to some foreigners. I flew it and turned it
over to Petya (Peter) Rybin. I asked him, “What’s going
“The famous aviator Charles Lindberg is flying in from
At that time in the Komsomolskaya Pravda they had
published a large story, “Little boy with freckles.”
Lindberg, after his historic flight, received a large
sum of money. Someone stole his child and demanded a
large ransom for this little boy. A tragedy ensued. He
became enraged at America, flew from the USA, and
received British citizenship. Later they said that he
married some rich Japanese woman, and traveled with her
on his airplane that could do 200 km\h. My airplane
could also make 200 km\h. They used it to transport an
operator, cameraman, director, and a person who
represented Soviet authority. The aircraft on which I
had earlier flown accompanied Lindberg’s aircraft.
So I had a small break from flying. When I gave up my
aircraft to Rybin, I remained without an aircraft. A
second pilot was required on the K-5 for Lisikov, and I
agreed to serve in that capacity.
you saved you flight logbook?
nothing remains. All my orders [decorations], everything
that I had, I gave to the museum of the Aviation School
in Pulkovo. My photoraphs are there, my newspaper
clippings are there, and the article “Courage,” which
Lugovtsov wrote in 1967, is there. It was a good
article; after it was published, I was invited to speak
at the philharmonic, on the occasion of Woman’s Day. The
chairman congratulated the women, and they gave me ten
minutes to speak. They gave only me ten minutes, longer
than anyone else.
I wrote out my speech ahead of time and they checked it
over. How did I construct my speech? I recalled for them
the female heroes, not only in Bershanskaya’s regiment,
which had to be mentioned on such occasions, but also
those women who worked in the rear. I reminded them of
the women whom I inserted into the enemy’s deep rear.
Later, at the end, I paid homage to Leningrad, and said
the following: “The word ‘heroism’ is not suitable for
Leningraders, because they did more, and this will
remain for the ages.”
Now I can no longer remember all the details of my
speech, but the hall cried out. At that moment when the
Presidium began to leave, the actor Gorbachev, who was
supposed to give a speech, came up to me. He kissed my
hand and said, “Actors dream that once in their life for
several minutes they might capture the hall, as you held
us in your grasp for an entire ten minutes.”
there many women in civilian aviation in the pre-war
years, in 1939–40?
very many. Keep in mind that during the war, many came
in from Osoaviakhim [Society for assistance in defense
and aviation–chemical organization]. Not so many from
I flew in the Soviet–Finnish War of 1939–40, along with
another female pilot from Petrozavodsk, in an R-5. We
evacuated wounded. The winter of 1939–40 was colder, I
think, than ever before, and the situation in Leningrad
was critical. The temperature reached –35 to –40 degrees
C. We transported not only wounded but also frostbite
cases. We often flew them from our Leningrad airfield to
Valaam. There was a hospital there, along with a shelter
for the disabled, after the war.
airfield were you based on in Leningrad?
civilian airfield, “Komendantskiy.” We brought the
wounded in there, and they had ambulances standing by
right at the aircraft parking area that picked up the
wounded and took them to Leningrad’s civilian and
military hospitals. Today’s civilian airport was then
called “Shosseynyy” [highway], and we flew from there to
Moscow and for other civilian purposes.
winter, did you fly on wheels or skis?
but we had problems even with them. We carried the
wounded from unprepared landing fields. One could land
on snow without particular difficulty. But in order to
take off, the runway had to be packed down.
the presence of skis greatly affect the performance of
not say that; we simply gave it a little more throttle.
there a break between the Soviet–Finnish War and the
Great Patriotic War when you were not flying?
no break. The Finnish War began in November 1939.
December, January, February, March. I was already
married, and I got pregnant. Our baby was born in
September 1940. Everything turned out well for me. And,
perhaps, not only for me but also for Leningrad.
“Flights over the city” appeared. Such a flight cost 2
rubles, 50 kopecks. I flew the U-2 aircraft with a
two-passenger cabin. Ten minutes over the most beautiful
sights of Leningrad.
The important thing was that I had the opportunity to
run home during the breaks and feed my baby, because
they had built the Dom pilotov [pilots’ apartment
building] right up against the airfield. They gave
Lisikov and me a large apartment of three rooms. There
was only one family like ours, where we were both
During this work, blind people amazed me. Their
reactions in flight simply stunned me. After the flight,
they got out of the airplane and literally fell on the
ground out of joy. And they had actually seen nothing!
But, perhaps, this vibrating and turning had such an
influence on them. All the beauty of the flight had an
influence on them. This happened not with just one
person, but with many. The “City Center for the Blind”
organized these flights.
These flights of mine ended as the war was beginning.
us, how did you learn that the war had begun?
interesting. Lisikov and I were saving money to buy a
piece of furniture that contained a radio and a
phonograph of the “Radiola” type. We finally had saved
up enough money, and on Sunday morning, the 22nd of
June, we went out to buy it. We returned with our
purchase and invited our neighbors in—to share in our
joy. We turned on the radio, and... imagine our
amazement when they immediately began broadcasting
Molotov’s speech. We made the purchase and immediately
it came in handy to learn this news. They quickly
confiscated the Radiola.6
was converted over to a wartime regime on the same day.
Some of the pilots flew off to flight centers where they
were transitioned to new equipment.
you begin the war on the U-2?
to fly on a medical-evacuation aircraft. My sister took
our daughter to live with her and I went into service.
They bombed our “Shosseynyy” airfield the first time on
30 August. This is Pulkovo today. They began to assign
all of us out wherever suitable, which meant that we
left there. Lisikov flew on assignment to Moscow and I
transferred to Borovichi.
Borovichi had an enormous hospital; its chief was
Professor Danishevskiy. Later he wrote an interesting
book that I long sought after, but was unable to find.
The problem was complex: to return to Leningraders who
had endured the blockade starvation the capability to be
fed. They were unable to eat—their stomachs would not
accept food. Very little was known about how to treat
them. They brought in six mares by airplane to a sovkhoz
around Tikhvin for this purpose, and from these mares
produced fermented milk (kumys). The fermented mare’s
milk re-established the capability of the stomach, and
many Leningraders were treated after the blockade.
Danishevsky wrote his dissertation on this effort.
In connection with the hospital in Borovichi, I am
reminded of my first encounter with a fascist. It was,
perhaps, at the end of October. I transported two
wounded from the front line and flew them to Borovichi.
I was flying to a sorting station on a U-2 (SP-2)
medical evacuation airplane. It was silver in color, and
had highly visible red crosses on it. When I saw that a
German fighter was on my tale, I still thought that he
would see the red crosses and leave me alone. I was sure
that there was some kind of law that prohibited
interference with the wounded. But the fighter closed up
I had several seconds before my life would end. There
was no way out, it seemed. He could cut through us with
a single burst and nothing would remain of me and my
wounded passengers. You perhaps have heard, and before
this I had read somewhere, but I myself lived through
this—at such moments a person’s brain goes into special
regime. In a very short period of time, your entire life
passes before your eyes. I was surprised, but this
happened to me. My entire life came into my memory, how
I played chess with my father at the age of six years,
how at age three he threw me into the water and I began
to swim, and how he taught me to climb trees, and I
climbed upward and threw down dwarf pinecones. This was
in the Far East; our papa was a teacher and director at
school somewhere between Nakhodka and Amerikanka. I
remembered other things—my entire life up to that time.
In such extreme circumstances, a person’s brain works in
an unusual manner: I saw an overhang, and I literally
thrust my airplane under this overhang. The burst that
was launched by the fighter passed over my aircraft and
cut into the other bank of the river. This was the Msta
River. In these places it flowed between steep banks. I
pressed the stick and flew lower and lower, flying
directly over the water, darting back and forth with the
river. I thought that the German pilot must be swearing
at me up above—he could not cope with such a small
When I made a right turn, a burst passed along my tail
section. I pulled the stick this way and that way, and
realized that control surfaces and control cables were
not damaged (on the U-2, the control cables are outside
the fuselage). I sensed a narrowing of the river and
then I spotted a bridge. I had to climb. I understood
that at this moment I would become a target for him. But
at that moment, something began to function poorly. It
was obvious—he had damaged my aircraft. Then I came upon
an airfield—Verebye, and set my aircraft down without an
approach. When my aircraft stopped, I looked around.
People were running up to me from all sides, shouting
something and waving. I did not understand. I climbed
down from the cabin, looked around, and saw that the
Messerschmitt was burning. It had dived on my airplane
and began to pull out, but the aircraft had bottomed
out. He did not have sufficient altitude for his
pullout, and struck the other bank. They were pointing
the airplane out to me.
For this incident I was recommended for the Order of the
Red Star. But Brigade Commissar Usatyy happened to be
there. In short, they decided to “bump up” my award, and
instead gave me the Order of the Red Banner.
this a single-engine or twin-engine Messerschmitt?
Single-engine. A Bf-109, for sure.
could say that you downed it. Did they give you the
customary bounty bonus?
No, but I
received the Order of the Red Banner. I consider that
I had one other experience that deserves attention. Some
time after this incident, I was flying with the brigade
commissar. At the time, the armies of both Fedyuninskiy
and Meretskov had become scattered after battles.
people of these formations needed to be assembled. They
designated commanders and sent them back to the unit. On
one occasion, the brigade commissar called my commander
and said, “Get a pilot ready for 0800 tomorrow.”
My aircraft was standing by when a vehicle drove up. I
recognized one of the passengers—it was Usatyy, the one
who pinned on my decoration. I looked at the second
person and saw two diamonds (this turned out to be Pavel
to me, “Moscow!”
I took off in the S-2, which was one of the variants of
the U-2, with an enclosed cockpit. I flew to Malaya
Vishera, and the weather was horrible. The snow was wet
with ice. The aircraft began to ice up and I almost
crashed. The commander-in-chief [Zhigarev] said nothing
at all to me, but I heard him say to his traveling
companion: “No matter what happens, I must report to
Stalin at 0200.”
He had been sent to determine the situation in the
Leningrad and Volkhov fronts.
We landed, and almost an entire platoon of soldiers
cleaned the ice from my airplane. We flew on. We made it
as far as Dmitrov. My aircraft could not go on. I
spotted a village and landed it. I said to the
commander-in-chief, Zhigarev: “It is impossible to fly.”
He mobilized all the people in the village and they
began to clean the strip.
They cleaned and they cleaned. The airplane “plowed,”
but would not take off. He motioned me aside and sat in
the forward cabin himself. I thought that he might be
considering leaving me behind—it would be easier to lift
off with a lighter load. But somehow he got it in the
air. We were lucky; some kind of atmospheric layer gave
us a slight lift—but we still had icing problems. Then
we ran out of fuel. We got as close as 40 kilometers
from Moscow. We landed. Anyway, I delivered him to
Moscow. They put me up in the Metropol Hotel, which was
almost on Red Square. On the next day, the 7th of
November, was supposed to be a parade. I had the
opportunity to witness the parade on 7 November 1941!
did you stand?
the History Museum, such a beautiful building.
The weather was very bad. I forgot his name—Kozhevnikov
or Kryzhovnikov, I think—the commander-in-chief’s
adjutant, wrote in his memoirs that on 7 November our
aircraft flew and bombed. Nothing of the sort! This is
not true. I remember precisely that the commander in
chief of the VVS Zhigarev issued an order forbidding
sorties. There were no sorties flown on 7 November. If
one heard the sound of an aircraft, it would only be an
This prohibition on flights gave me the opportunity to
travel to Valuevo, to the headquarters of our aviation
group. There I met with friends and talked about our
work and our flights. As soon as I returned with my
aircraft at Borovichi, I asked my commander Savin to
send me to Novosibirsk, to the center for transition to
large aircraft. I was transitioned there.
1941—the end of the year and early 1942. Then I was
assigned to an air group of civilian aviation.
My first flight was with the deputy regiment commander
for flight operations, Kalina. I will explain how this
happened. I left the office of the commander, Konstantin
Aleksandrovich Bukhalov. He had learned that a woman had
reported to his air group, and he had said to me, “I am
categorically opposed to this! We will send you off to
the Fairbanks–Yakutsk line.”
gone there, I would have been someone’s co-pilot. But I
had already been appointed as an aircraft commander.
At that moment, Aleksandr Danilovich Kalina walked in.
He was one of the most famous test pilots. He had tested
all the aircraft from the Tupolev design bureau. They
called him “sukhoy” [dry]. When they said that a test
pilot was “sukhoy,” it meant that he had never damaged
an aircraft. They said this about Aleksandr Danilovich
He said, “What is this lady of ours doing here? I know
her as an athlete well, but not as a pilot. Give her to
me today for a night flight. I will look her over, and
give you a ‘yes’ or ‘we have no use for her’.”
So I flew with him on a mission: somewhere around Kiev
we dropped [parachute insertion] two scouts. I flew this
mission from beginning to end. He never touched the
controls. He only told me the insertion point. I spent
the entire flight talking to the radio operator. He gave
me the bearings-when I crossed the front line at
3,000–4,000 meters and when I dropped down to 300–400
meters. By this time the Germans already had radar and
were tracking us.
Later Aleksandr Danilovich did a great deal for me,
although he did not know it at the time. He put me in an
airplane, gave me a crew, and said, “You will service
these four points!”
These were Kuybyshev, Gorkiy, Sverdlovsk, and
Chelyabinsk. We were always flying around these four
places. We had to pick up something at one of them and
deliver it to another. One needed girders, that place
gave us ball bearings for tanks; they had to be dropped
in Gorkiy, and so on. These were my first flights.
This was 1942, April perhaps. I had just begun to fly,
and the commander went away. He left for England. The
British crown had given us an aircraft, an Albemarle,
that had to be ferried back.
was not an airplane—it was a disaster. When they were
ferrying them to the USSR, one aircraft blew up 500
kilometers from the English coast, and Kulikov’s
aircraft exploded 200 kilometers from Murmansk.
they give us 24 of these?
a matter of fact, we later refused them. The aircraft
was a piece of garbage, but it had outstanding engines.
They mounted these engines on motor boats, you
understand. On ships, on small ships, the kind that laid
mines. They needed good engines.
What else is there to say? Rarely is anyone interested
in these things today, so that I hardly know what to
talk about. I carried out eight sorties to insert
intelligence agents of the Intelligence Directorate of
the General Staff into the enemy’s rear area.
Incidentally, in order to be permitted to fly on
assignment of the intelligence directorate, one must
have flown not less than 100 sorties on combat missions,
and I flew mine on all fronts. Before this, we
transported provisions to Leningrad and dropped cargoes
to partisans. When they were evacuating Sevastopol, we
flew on “Khersones lighthouse” airfield. At first it was
not a big thing, but at the end they plowed up the field
with bombs and shells. You had to watch in order not to
loose your landing gear (in the bomb craters).
When I was flying on my second sortie for insertion of
intelligence agents, the chief of intelligence—a major,
crossed out the letter “a” in my last name, and reported
“Lisikov.” (“Lisikov” is a male surname and “Lisikova”
is a female surname. Ed.)
When I was flying on my eighth sortie, he again was on
duty, and again he saw in the documents: “Lisikova.” The
letter “a” was there. He called ADD (aviatsiya dalnego
deistviya [long-range aviation, the major command
responsible for these missions]) (we were subordinated
directly to ADD).
“This is a critical mission. Have you done this in
“There is no mistake. This is a woman, she is an
aircraft commander, she has many hours of flight time.
She has a very good reputation.”
The major reported to the chief of intelligence, and the
chief of intelligence is calling Marshal Golovanov by
direct line. “How is it possible to permit a woman on
such a critical sortie? What if they shoot her down?”
He responded, “I know aircraft commander Lisikova very
well. She is one of the division’s best aircraft
Golovanov called our general (the chief of the GVF
[grazhdanskiy vozdushnyy flot – civilian air fleet])
Astakhov. Astakhov arrived at Vnukovo airfield, where we
based, by 0400. I was scheduled to return from my
mission at 0500–0530.
The aircraft on which I was flying, the C-47, was one of
the best aircraft of that era. We had a two-person crew.
Why? Flight routes were very long, therefore we carried
as much fuel as possible. There was a third person on
board—a colonel or lieutenant colonel—who monitored for
the accomplishment of the mission, that the cargo was
dropped at the required location. I had taken off from a
forward airfield in order to reduce the range of the
flight. But they ordered me to return to base. I landed
and stopped next to the terminal. I looked out and the
regiment commander was crawling up to the cockpit. He
said to me, “I will taxi your aircraft. You go and
report to the general about the accomplishment of your
I left the aircraft and reported to the general
concerning the accomplishment of the mission, and
everything seemed normal. Gruzdin was our first to
receive Hero for sorties carried out in such difficult
third sortie, Semen Frolovskiy became a Hero of the
arrived at the headquarters, he (the general) began to
shout at the regiment commander and at everyone else.
“How is it possible to entrust such complex flights to a
To me they not only did not express any thanks, but they
cursed me out. This was only my eighth sortie. They
withdrew me from these missions. This was in early 1944.
They gave me other assignments for two or three months.
New engines for shturmoviks had to be hauled from Monino
to Krasnodar. There they were refitted.
I thought about how best to organize these flights and
came up with the following plan. I picked up engines in
Monino and flew them to Vnukovo. I managed to complete
three round trips per day from Vnukovo (this was almost
18 flight hours per day, 12 consecutive days, in every
kind of weather). Then a poster was released: “Fly like
aircraft commander Lisikova!” Unfortunately, I do not
have a copy of this poster.
One of my school chums sent me a postcard. “Olga! I took
one of your posters and wrapped it up. When I have time,
I will send it to you.”
He did not send it. I don’t know what happened to him.
The VVS press did not find a copy for me.
I will tell you about another unique flight. If you told
this to any other pilot, he would not believe it. This
flight was at the end of 1943. Fourteen aircraft took
off at night. Each had its own mission. Three aircraft
were going to my target, including mine. A partisan
detachment had fallen into a very bad situation there.
We had delivered all their provisions and, in the
meantime, while they were holding the Germans in check,
they had run out of armaments. Now they needed an
immediate shipment of ammunition. The weather was “zero,
zero.” I did not know at that time that all the other
aircraft had turned back because of the weather. But my
position in the division was special, both because I was
a woman and because there was a poster that said, “Fly
like aircraft commander Lisikova!” This poster was hung
in the airports of many cities. One time in Sverdlovsk,
a pilot saw this poster and said, “Well, what happened?
Have men deteriorated to the point that women are
teaching us how to fly?”
So my position was special. Therefore all 280 of my
sorties, all of them, were executed. Not one time did I
turn back; not once did I fail in my duty. Now I had to
save this partisan detachment. I had about three tons of
cargo on board. Several times I almost touched the
ground, but everything was covered in overcast. I
thought, “I need to come out at a large lake.” There not
far away, five minutes, was this partisan detachment.
The work of my navigator and radio operator was
magnificent. The radio operator gave me a bearing
literally every minute. It was also a good thing that
there was no wind, and therefore no drift. The moment
was very intense. It would not be possible to make a
second pass. When I came out, I saw an opening, to the
left a forest, and to the right the outline of the lake.
I dove toward the surface of the lake and passed over
it. There I made a turn and began to climb slightly. We
climbed to the level necessary for me to see what the
distance was from the treetops to the overcast. If there
was an opening of 50–70 meters, we could continue the
mission. If not, we had to return. Well, I determined
that the required opening existed. Then the navigator
gave us a course to the partisan detachment. We flew
onward for five minutes and we spotted a fire.
So many times I executed these flights and as a rule,
the fires were laid out in a “T” or an “P.” Here, there
was only a single fire, but we could see where the
others had been until they went out. I had earlier given
the command and the co-pilot and gunner had secured
themselves to the pedestal where the UBT machine gun
entirely possible for them to fly out of the open hatch.
When we passed over the fire, they managed to throw out
two or three containers. The difficulty lay in the fact
that we still had to make a pass over this same fire
again. I turned and again managed to come out at this
spot. They the navigator also joined in the cargo
delivery. Three of them could push out more cargo. In
spite of their best efforts, we had to go around a third
time. We dropped the main cargo that was intended for
the partisan detachment.
When we arrived back at Vnukovo, the commander, Major
General Kazmin, said: “We received confirmation from the
partisan detachment. They received all the supplies.
They cut off the enemy’s attack, and already are moving
toward their transport. For this flight I should
recommend you for Hero of the Soviet Union. However, you
did not have a female crew.”
To me it had become ridiculous, because not only a
female, but also a male crew would hardly have been able
to accomplish such a flight. Later I learned that the
first department [representative of the NKVD] had
prevented such a recommendation from being accepted
because at that time it was possible that my husband was
a prisoner of war. They considered that once in
captivity, anything was possible. In 1941, at the
beginning of the war, our tanks were counterattacking
the Germans in the Bryansk area. They ran out of fuel.
Six Li-2 [Lisunov-2, a DC-3 built under license in the
USSR with slight modifications] aircraft were sent out
to resupply them. My husband’s aircraft was shot down
and exploded. The entire crew was listed as missing in
action, but it turned out that the cockpit fell free.
The aircraft commander - Lisikov, co-pilot, and flight
mechanic survived and were captured, while the gunner,
radio operator, and navigator were killed. They sent the
survivors to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia,
where they remained until 1945. They sent me
notification that my husband was missing in action, and
because of this many recommendations in my name went
you Douglas have bomb hangers?
never dropped any ordnance.
you not have hung cargo containers on bomb hangers?
aircraft was intended for delivery of parachutists. It
had special seats and girders for parachute lines.
Perhaps you are thinking of ADD aircraft, but that is
another matter entirely. We had different missions.
There was a case when the Germans were moving a large
number of Russian captives by train. We had to deliver a
group of good, strong officers from special operations
to assist them. This was a very complicated mission,
because we had to drop them in a very confined space. I
put the aircraft in a 70-degree banking turn so that the
parachutists would fall to the same point. We had
missions like this.
Because I was a Leningrader, I was most interested in
missions that supported Leningrad. Our commander knew
this and frequently assigned such missions. In the
[unit] combat actions journal it is recorded that
Lisikova flew as aircraft commander to blockaded
Leningrad as many as a hundred times. This was not easy.
I was flying to Leningrad from the very beginning, some
of my first flights.
When the order came out to create a Moscow special
purpose aviation group (MAGON), they really meant
“special purpose.” Its primary purpose was not for
hauling of provisions to Leningrad—it was believed they
would quickly relieve the blockade. The aviation group
was able to move 100 tons of cargo in a day, but I will
tell you that its main purpose, the reason for creating
this aviation group, was to incrementally transport
30,000 of our highly qualified workers of the tank
industry. Later they used us as they needed to—as a
“cork for every bottle.” They assembled aircraft from
many Aeroflot subunits: Uzbek, Turkmen, Novosibirsk,
Minsk, Ukraine, and so on. All these aircraft were
concentrated at Vnukovo. The group consisted of the
regiments of Bukharov, where I served; the regiment of
Aleksey Semenkov; and the regiment of Taran. Leningrad
kept a few aircraft. Zhdanov took Vasya Litvinov, and
the commander-in-chief Govorov took for himself Kostya
Novikov in an Li-2, a total of two aircraft.
(my husband) flew an Li-2, and they sent him to Moscow.
Leningrad was an important center of tank and heavy
artillery design and manufacture. The list of plants
located there is long: “Bolshevik,” “Voroshilova,”
“Kirovskiy,” “Izhorskie Zavody,” and others.
Already in August, almost all the tank production
equipment had been sent to Siberia by train. In Siberia
they constructed only a roof and floors so that it would
be possible to install the machine tools. This was done
with a great deal of thought.
I want to tell you one other important thing. Historians
assert that the offensive was begun from Moscow. That
was not the case at all. The offensive was begun from
Leningrad. The Germans came to within six kilometers of
Volkhov. Tikhvin fell on 8 November. At this time, only
an air bridge connected the city with the rest of the
country. The 2nd Infantry Division was very quickly
rushed to General Meretskov at Tikhvin by this means.
The 6th Naval Infantry Brigade was quickly moved to
Novaya Ladoga. I saw these sailors. They thumped
themselves on the chest with their submachine guns: “We
will make it hot for the Germans!”
I remember those words—pertsu—nemtsu.
offensive began at Volkhov. Not only did they move the
front line back somewhat from Volkhov but they also
liberated Malaya Vishera. General Meretskov gathered up
all his forces, captured Tikhvin, and advanced quite
far. So the first offensive of the Great Patriotic War
against the Germans began around Leningrad, and not
If these events had not occurred at Leningrad, the very
strong German grouping would have very quickly advanced
on Moscow. Moscow was in a very critical situation in
November and barely held on. The Siberians had not yet
arrived, so the situation was serious indeed. So let
Moscow not pride itself that they were the first!
[Leningrad and Moscow were always, and still are rival
cities – and here is an example of such rivalry as
asserted by Lisikova. Ed.]
What was the difficulty of flights to Leningrad?
Kuznetsov forbade night flights, and we had to fly in
the daytime. The issue with night flights was PVO. Had
they opened the gates for us by creating flight
corridors, the German bombers would have been able to
fly in. Then what would have happened to our city?
Therefore we were in a desperate situation. We had to
fly in the light of day. That meant we had to find some
tactics that would prevent the Germans from destroying
this air bridge.
you fly in large or small groups?
a plan. We flew to Leningrad only at low level and in
groups of not less than seven aircraft. Nine was the
best number. They mounted ShKAS machine guns on our
aircraft, and on top was a turret where they mounted the
aircraft used a flight route over Lake Ladoga, where
fascist fighters patrolled. When they came down on us,
our gunners commenced barrier fire. In order to hit a
target, a fighter had to approach to within 400 meters,
or they would miss. This barrier fire prevented the
German fighters from getting that close. Although we did
not shoot them down, we did not allow them to kill us at
Were there losses, though?
November 19, 1941 was the most difficult day for our
aviation group. Rzhevka, at that time it was called
Smolnyy airfield was still closed, and we were flying to
Komendantskiy airfield, at Novaya Derevnya. The Germans
were very close.
Fighters were escorting us, but the fighters had landed
before all of our aircraft were on the ground. Two
German fighters shot down Misha Zhukov, first aircraft
in the landing circle, and everyone on that aircraft was
killed instantly (M.Ye. Zhukov, N.V. Dzhyukaev, Y.S.
Kovalev, S.I. Oleynik, and A.A. Strakhov). The aircraft
of Kireev—Yevgeniy Romanovich Kireev—was second to land.
He was the chief pilot for Vyacheslav Molotov [Soviet
Minister of Foreign Affairs], who two days later was to
fly to the United States to sign the Lend-lease
Agreement. He was sitting in the right seat, permitting
Zhuravlev to fly the aircraft. Kireev was killed
outright; the wounded flight engineer was able to lower
the landing gear. He died two hours later. Seriously
wounded, Zhuravlev landed the aircraft, but his entire
crew was in critical condition; all of them were
evacuated to a hospital. They transported Yevgeniy to
Moscow and buried him there.
think during the fifth flight, two aircraft fell behind.
Kostya Bukhanov was flying one of them. Under no
conditions should an aircraft fall behind. They were
shot down, but managed to land in damaged condition.
They saved almost all of their passengers—only two died.
Then there was Ibrahim Zhanteev, on 30 November 1941. He
fell back from the group that was going to Leningrad.
The Germans intercepted him right away and shot him
down, but he managed to turn and land on the water. But
it was 200 meters to the shore, and the depth there was
8 meters. He had passengers on board—the children of the
workers of “Lenenergiya” [Leningrad power utility].
There were 40–50 persons in all, and the Messers strafed
those who made it out of sinking plane in several
passes. Our forces did not find a single survivor. In
general the fascists well knew whom we were
transporting. Their reconnaissance loitered around our
airfield all the time. How could one not call them child
I showed some young boys from the Palace of Pioneers the
flight route where our aircraft traveled. We were held
to the northern side because the Finns flew very little,
and the Germans launched primarily from Shlisselburg.
These boys, of ninth grade, were diving in that area. In
the third year, they found an aircraft. Later the divers
reported on the find. For a very long time the Unified
Council of the VVS attempted to provide assistance from
the Navy to raise the aircraft. But, in the opinion of
specialists, this was a very complex operation—the
aircraft was almost not visible, buried in the sand. I
do not know if they ever brought it up or not. [They did
Tikhomolov writes in his memoirs regarding Zhanteev that
they flew together in Kazakhstan. Did you know Boris
knew him. He, perhaps, knew me well.
fighters always escort you?
speaking, the situation with fighters was poor. They
gave us fighters, but it might be just one or two
fighters. But what are two fighters to escort nine
transports? This is nonsense! I don’t want to demean the
fighter pilots, but we often said to them, “Please, hold
closer to us, because if you get separated from us, a
battle will erupt and it won’t be good for you; and we
also can provide some cover for you.” But what was an
I-16 in comparison to a Bf-109?
know the number of the fighter regiment that covered
(commanded by Puzeykin) and 154th later 29th Guards)
Fighter Air Regiments. I also knew Puzeykin and Mineev,
his chief of staff, very well. I knew all those who flew
cover for us.
many years during the war did you fly in the Li-2, and
when did you begin to fly the C-47?
the Li-2 for perhaps one year altogether, and the
remainder of the time I flew the C-47. I was the only
female pilot and, of course, they gave me the C-47
first. As soon as the Lend-lease agreement was
concluded, we almost immediately received the C-47,
because it was accomplishing a very critical mission.
is the correct nomenclature for the aircraft—Li-2 or
was the passenger version of the aircraft. We received
it back in 1939. We purchased the license for production
and began to assemble them in a plant in Tashkent. They
began to install our M-62 engines.
unofficial situations, they called it the Douglas, and
not the PS-84. They began to call this airplane the Li-2
only in 1943. But no one called it the Li-2; it remained
the Douglas until the end of the war. Pilots began to be
accustomed to calling it the Li-2 only later.
what ways, in your opinion, did the Douglas differ from
like day and night. Was there some similarity—yes. But
when you sat in the C-47, you knew it immediately. In
the first place, it had an enormous number of new
instruments. One compass (magnetic), a second (gyro)
compass, and a third compass (radio).
Second, the Li-2’s ASh-62 engines did not have great
power. The Pratt and Whitney engines were very powerful.
When I was flying to Leningrad, I was able to carry four
tons—four tons! Four tons was forty paratroops with
their full armament!
But take the Li-2—if you hauled 1.5 tons, it was a good
thing. When we went to Leningrad, we even carried up to
2.5 tons. This is when we were flying from Novaya
Ladoga—a short distance; it was possible to carry 2.5
tons. But I should say, this was not an easy thing to
do. If we flew, for example, from Khvoynaya, we took
The C-47 had automatic anti-icing equipment. This system
worked wonderfully both on the wings and the propeller
blades. Ice often formed on the propellers.
heat- or alcohol-based de-icing system?
heat. Once I was flying for two and a half hours in ice
build-up conditions and did not feel anything.
Everything was cleared-up, including the empennage.
The C-47 was equipped with such good lights that field
illumination was not required for landing.
I flew one time on a special mission to the North. This
was in 1945. I will tell you the exact dates—from the
15th of January to the 15th of April. We spent three
months on this government assignment. An enormous amount
of fur pelts and salmon had been collected, and this was
as it were our second gold. We were to pay for something
with it. I had to land the airplane at Pechora, at the
mouth of the Pechora River. It was in Naryan-Mar. They
radioed to me, “You can land your airplane with
confidence—the ice landing field is in excellent
But it was very difficult to land the airplane. First,
they indeed had an ice landing field, and everything was
lit up [the field could not be distinguished from the
surrounding terrain because of light conditions]. There
were no references with which to compare our altitude.
The huts were far away, along the Northern Dvina River.
Somehow I managed to land. My God! I had never
experienced anything like this in my life—I could not
use the brakes.
Reverse pitch on the propellers? Did you have variable
no effect. As soon as I changed the pitch, immediately
everything swirled around us so that I could see
absolutely nothing. When I had already lost hope, up
ahead we saw some ice hummocks and snowdrifts. Now I
pressed on the brakes. With axes and hooks, and with
whatever we could find, they hacked out a runway among
the ice hummocks, in order to make it suitable for
flights. The factory was not far away, and we had to
transport out the salmon, but how? There was no traction
on the strip. Nearby was a sovkhoz [state-owned farm]
where they processed the hides. Tons of already
absolutely finished production, excellent pelts, lay
there. I ferried them to Naryan-Mar, where they were
further processed, and later were moved to Arkhangelsk
and then by train to Moscow.
you fly with one crew? Or with various crews?
single crew. My crew consisted of Zhorzh Morozov—my
radio operator, and Viktor Smirnov—flight mechanic. My
co-pilot and navigator were changed out, and so was my
your radio operator and flight mechanic were permanently
the same for all aircraft commanders.
did you learn of the victory [9 May 1945]?
moment I was in Moscow. I had flown to the central
airfield and spent the night with my girl-friend Tanya
Donkovaya. She was the secretary for our General
Astakhov. This was somewhere around 0400. The telephone
rang and the general said, “Tatyana Ivanovna, I am
sending a vehicle around for you. Today is victory day.
I am sending a car. Aleksey Semenkov took off from
Berlin. He is bringing the peace agreement [capitulation
document]. Interesting fact – officially war between
Germany and USSR was over in mid 1950-s, since there
were two German states, and there was a problem with
signing peace documents with FRG! You are to take this
opportunity, while it’s still quiet in Moscow, to drive
around the city.
So we got in the car and drove around, perhaps for two
or three hours. The city was still sleeping; doormen
were already hanging Victory flags.
the war, did you fly for very long?
No. I did
not fly long. Because When I was flying in the North,
the fact of the matter is that in the north I almost
killed myself. Have you read Saint-Exupery’s Night
Flight? There is a moment in that account. Already at an
altitude of 2,000 meters, he put on his oxygen mask. I
flew from Naryan-Mar back to my airfield at 5,000
meters. Our aircraft was not fully pressurized. The
Americans did not give us that capability. Second, they
did not provide us with oxygen masks and corresponding
equipment. They did not give it to us. They removed
everything. They did not install an altimeter that
determined our true altitude. We all determined our
altitude from the moment of takeoff according to a
barometric altimeter. I flew my last flights in 1946
while opening the air routes Leningrad–Riga,
Leningrad–Vilnius, and Leningrad–Tallinn in the C-47.
On the 50th anniversary of the Victory, the chairman of
our Society of Councils of Veterans called me. They had
just returned from Poklonnaya gora [a place in Moscow
where the Museum of the Great PatrioticWar is located
and many celebrations of Victory Day occur – Ed.] and he
said, “Olga! We all congratulate you. Finally, justice
is served—your portrait is hanging among the most
celebrated pilots who fought in this war.”
You know, I simply cried.
Large print: 280 combat sorties
Small print: The 280 combat sorties of Olga Lisikova
saved the lives of hundreds of wounded soldiers and
officers of the Red Army. This brave pilot has flown on
all fronts from the Barents to the Black Sea; she has
delivered to the firing line scores of tons of
ammunition, medications, and provisions. Four government
awards adorn the chest of this aircraft commander of the
civil air fleet, Olga Lisikova.