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15 November 2018

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Red Sky, Black Death

This surprisingly intense memoir of a village girl swept up by life in Moscow (working on building the Metro) during the early years of Bolshevik rule takes on added importance and excitement as she joins the women’s air corps and becomes a decorated war pilot.

Yegorova tells her life story in short, engaging pieces that are astoundingly rich in detail and, in many instances (a near-suicide mission dropping smoke bombs, her capture after being shot down, her interrogation by SMERSH) harrowing. Ably translated by Margarita Ponomaryova and Kim Green, Yegorova’s memoir gives a human scale view of pre-war purges, of socialist construction projects, of soldiers’ lives during the war, of what it meant to be a female combat pilot, of what repatriated prisoners went through on returning to Russia – in short, a tale of a heroic life through the middle of the last century. As Yegorova concludes her story:

"The war showed the whole world who these ‘women in Russian villages’ are and how their hearts can soar in the name of their motherland."

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: July/Aug 2009