Portrait of Dolina with Daisies
Female Aviation Heroines
of the Great Patriotic War

by Henry Sakaida

Pe-2 Fighter-Bomber
Dolina was a military-pilot who flew the Pe-2 twin-engine, medium range bomber (pictured above). Dolina is most famous for the battle she took part in on 2 June 1943, on the North Caucasus Front in Kuban'. Her aircraft was hit by enemy anti-aircraft artillery prior to reaching her target, disabling an engine and starting the bomber on fire. Her fighter escort had dissappeared while pursuing enemy fighters, yet she continued flying and made the scheduled bomb-drop. On the way back, with no fighter escort, her flight was attacked by six German fighters (two Focke Wulfs 190 and four Me 109). Dolinas crew managed to kill one FW 190 and one Me 109. After crossing the front lines, the burning aircraft made an emergency belly-landing in a field. The battle had consisted of nine Soviet bombers and eight German fighters. Although two Soviet bombers had been shot down, there were no personnel losses among the bomber crews. The battle itself went down in the history of the Soviet Air Force as a model of flight personnel's skill, tenacity, courage and valor.
I walked briskly with my schoolteacher friend Vladek Tumasyan and his son Sergey toward a tall apartment building in the exclusive Darnitsa area of Kiev, situated on the west bank of
the Dnieper River. "These apartment buildings were built for high party officials, ranking military officers, and other privileged citizens before the collapse of the Soviet Union," explained Vladek. We were on the way to meet Mariya Dolina, the famous woman bomber pilot and Hero of the Soviet Union.
This meeting was the culmination of several failed efforts to see Mariya Dolina. Major Dolina had known for some time that a stranger from Los Angeles was in town, wishing to meet her. But she was ill and was scheduled to have surgery the following week. I had made inquiries about her with a veteran's organization in Moscow, and this got back to her. "Is he the man from America who was asking about me?" she asked Sergey over the telephone. "I just have to meet him! The paramedics came yesterday and repaired me! I'm ready, come on over!" At 2:45 in the afternoon, we rang her doorbell, and I was extremely nervous. The door was opened by Dolina's son, Anatoli. I then caught a glimpse of her as she came hobbling to the door. Guards Maj Mariya Ivanovna Dolina, former Pe-2 bomber pilot and deputy commander of the famous 125th M.M. Raskova Borisov Guards Divebomber Regiment. She was wearing the Gold Star Medal above her ribbon bars.
"Hero of the Soviet Union, Comrade Maj Mariya Dolina!" I greeted her in Russian. She gave me and my friends a very warm and long embrace. She beckoned us into her immaculate apartment. I presented her with gifts of instant coffee, a large round tin of Danish butter cookies
, and a large summer sausage from Hickory Farms - the wrong kind of gifts for a woman with high blood pressure! (continued)

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