Don’t keep me wait­ing …

Dr. Asma Naveed Head, Depart­ment of Rus­sian Lan­guage, Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of Mod­ern Lan­guages, Islamabad

The Diplomatic Insight - - Contents -

Dr. Asma Naveed

“Wait for me and I will re­turn…” th­ese are the open­ing words of a fa­mous poem by Kon­stantin Si­monov writ­ten in the back­drop of the Great Pa­tri­otic War. This poem paints a very ro­man­tic but a stereo­typed pic­ture of an ideal woman, wait­ing for her man to re­turn home from the front af­ter home and his fam­ily. And I am sure many of us re­mem­ber this poem by heart. But I am also sure there would be many more who do not know or re­mem­ber the names of those un­con­ven­tional women who de­cided not to stay back and wait, but to come out of the safety of their homes and hearts to de­fend their coun­try. It is ironic that only re­cently, dur­ing the much me­diaglam­or­ized and me­dia-hyped wars, there has been such an up­roar over whether women can or should par­tic­i­pate in ac­tive war or tac­ti­cal avi­a­tion. It is ironic be­cause around 70 years ago Soviet women did. At the be­gin­ning of the war most of th­ese were teenage girls or in their early 20s. As one of them re­mem­bers, if they sur­vived to twen­tythree, they were con­sid­ered ‘vet­er­ans’ and were then termed the ‘old ladies’. They came out sim­ply be­cause their coun­try needed them. “They were at­tack­ing my city. There was panic in the streets. What else could I do ex­cept join the army? It was my duty.” This is how ex­plained Galina Pavlovna Brok Beltsova, one of the then Soviet its west­ern front, who was just 16 at that time. They came out in sup­port of their home­land, they nav­i­ga­tor-bom­bardiers, gun­ners, me­chan­ics, ar­mor­ers, dy­ing on the front­line –and all of them “fought the en­emy ev­ery bit as well as the men did”. Al­most one mil­lion women served in the Red Army in the Sec­ond World War (Great Pa­tri­otic War), they re­sisted the Nazi in­va­sion of the Soviet Union, and they stood up against the war­fare of un­prece­dented fe­roc­ity. Out of th­ese 800,000 women went di­rectly to the Eastern Front, which was re­ally a mere frac­tion of all those who vol­un­teered and wanted to go. 520,000 of th­ese women served as regular troops in the Red Army, while an­other 300,000 served in com­bat and anti-air­craft for­ma­tion More than 28,000 women fought with the par­ti­sans. This par­tic­i­pa­tion by women in war­fare on such a large scale is not only his­tor­i­cally unique, it is un­prece­dented and re­quires to be recorded, re­called and re­mem­bered with an in­ten­sity and sin­cer­ity of emo­tions, match­ing their valor and brav­ery ,

though it would still be just a frac­tion of it. Sergeant Lyud­mila Pavlichenko, Se­nior Sergeant Roza Shanina and Kyra Petro­vskaya are the leg­ends among 2000 fe­male soviet snipers. Lyud­mila Pavlichenko has 309 kills to her credit. Roza Shanina – a kinder­garten teacher be­fore war – turned out to be a lethal sniper and killed at least 54 Ger­man sol­diers be­fore she suc­cumbed to her war in­juries at the age of 20. But the most in­spi­ra­tional deeds are at­trib­uted to the 500 night raids. Th­ese women-pi­lots were en­gaged in sup­ported them in ground sup­port mis­sions. com­bat mis­sions. It was on the be­hest of Ma­rina Raskova that fe­male air reg­i­ments were formed with vol­un­teer women pi­lots and other women vol­un­teers to act as me­chan­ics, staff per­son­nel, gun­ners and nav­i­ga­tors. Maria Raskova is among the trio of fe­male avi­a­tion pi­o­neers namely Valentina Gri­zo­dubova and Polina Osipenko who had in­spired al­most all women pi­lots. Again it the only in­stance in the his­tory of mil­i­tary avi­a­tion that a reg­i­ment con­sist­ing of all men was com­manded by a woman – Valentina Gri­zo­dubova. Ma­rina Raskova formed un­til her death in Jan­uary of 1943. The Soviet women bomber pi­lots earned in to­tal 23 Hero of the Soviet Union medals and dozens of Or­ders of the Red Ban­ner. Lidya Litvyak was awarded the honor posthu­mously in 1990. Po-2 bi­planes but they were so suc­cess­ful and deadly that the Ger­mans feared them, call­ing them “Nachthexen” – night witches. Two women bomber Katya Ryabova and Nadya Popova in one night raided the Ger­mans 18 times. Galina Pavlovna Brok Beltsova de­scribes this fact in her own way: tents, caves - but the Ger­mans had to have their bar­racks, you know. They are very pre­cise. So their bar­racks were built, all in a neat row, and we would come at night, af­ter they were asleep, and bomb them. Of course, they would

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