book report: Over Fields of Fire by Egorova (2010)
I enjoy autobiographies, and the story of the Russian communist ground attack pilot, Anna Alexandrovna Timofeeva-Egorova, who helped repel the Germans from the USSR is better than any work of fiction I've read recently. Over Fields of Fire reads like an oral history, organized chronologically, but roughly transcribed. The amanuensis, if there was one, preferred ellipsis to periods at the end of paragraphs, as if Egorova stopped abruptly. It was annoying but did not take away form her story of determination, luck, hardship, betrayal by her country then redemption. After reading Davies' book, No Simple Victory, and his criticism of Soviet tactics, I had thought of the Red Army in only one dimension, soulless communists. But Egorova did not need a political officer to force her to fly and defend her motherland. She sought work in Moscow before the war to help build a modern subway as an enthusiastic Komsomol member. When she wasn't working underground or sleeping she was learning all she could about flying. Then the war came and she was able to use her abilities for the defense of her country. She defended her country even though her brother was wrongly sent to GULaG. Interestingly to me, her hometown retained its Orthodox priest who performed a funeral for her after her plane went down and she was presumed dead. Although Stalin tried hard to execute most of the clergy, nevertheless, enough remained in out of the way places to serve such purposes. Because Stalin considered all Soviet POW's traitors, she had to endure more mistreatment from her own people, the SMERSH, after surviving her plane crash, extensive burns, and maltreatment by the Nazis in a POW camp. Yet she persevered and insisted on her rights and history, a decorated and highly successful pilot, to retrieve her communist card and return to good standing. She made no headway until after Stalin passed and Krushchev, his successor, declared that mistakes were made and needed to be made right. Hers were made right.
My one other formatting criticism is the translator's choice to leave too many words untranslated, but footnoted. In a paper version this would not be so bad, but in the Kindle version, it was too much flipping around. I picked this up in the Kindle store when it was temporarily free and it was worth every penny.