УДК 358.4

“Night witches” of Yevdokiya Davydovna Bershanskaya

Колпакова Анастасия Сергеевна ­– преподаватель авиационного (бомбардировочной и штурмовой авиации) факультета (г.Борисоглебск) Краснодарского высшего военного авиационного училища летчиков.

Щербакова Анна Александровна – курсант авиационного (бомбардировочной и штурмовой авиации) факультета (г.Борисоглебск) Краснодарского высшего военного авиационного училища летчиков.

Abstract: This article is devoted to Yevdokiya Bershanskaya, the commander of “Night Witches” or “Dunka’s Regiment”. It is described one of the first woman-pilot’s life, her establishment and her war career. Besides her professional features it is depicted either psychological aspect of Bershanskaya’s command knowledge.

Аннотация: Эта статья посвящена Евдокии Бершанской, командиру «Ночных ведьм» или «Дунькиного полка». В статье описана жизнь, становление и, главным образом, военная карьера одной из первых женщин-пилотов. Кроме профессиональных характеристик затрагивается и психологический аспект командных навыков Бершанской.

Keywords: pilot, woman-pilot, flight regiment, “Night Witches”, night flights, war time, major, professional knowledge.

Ключевые слова: летчик, женщина-летчик, «Ночные ведьмы», ночные полеты, военное время, майор, профессиональные навыки.

The Pilot profession is one of the most difficult in the world. It claims the special quality set, such as professional and personal. This statement is equal either for men and women. Nevertheless women’s state in the men’s scope of activity is complicated with women have to struggle with social stereotypes according to the fact that the weaker sex representatives are not able to learn a trade or to approve themselves in such profession. However Russian history allows refuting this unfair view. During the Great Patriotic War women show courage, heroism, strong volition, fearlessness. The example is 46th guard night bombardment air regiment consisting of exclusively from women. It causes a scare and horror on Germans that is why they called it “Night Witches” (bomber women-pilots made only nighttime flights). Woman pilots of this regiment were notable for both fearlessness and the strongest qualifications.

The regimental commander of that unique regiment was Yevdokiya Davydovna Bershanskaya (1913-1982) that is why it got the second title “Dunka’s regiment” from their colleagues (male pilot regiments) [4, c.68]. Bershanskaya had begun her flying career until the War, entering aviation school in 1931. The dream about flights arose in girl’s mind in her youth and her memoirs bore testimony to that. At school Bershanskaya answered future profession question that she wanted to be a teacher, but once something unforeseen happened provoking real shock: “… when I saw an airplane at the first time it was clear to me, that I wouldn’t be a teacher…” [3, c. 110]. However she had to show her pedagogical abilities in her life, due to graduating from aviation school in Rostov region (Bataysk) she started her instructor activity and grew up amount of pilots (1932-1939). Her work was more than effective in Bataysk aviation school. She was making a swift career.

Yevdokiya Bershanskaya was just twenty eight years old when she became a commanding officer of all-woman bomber regiment. Initiative of development such regiments belonged to M.M. Raskova (1912-1943) – a woman-pilot was amongst the most legendary ones in our country. M.M. Raskova’s choice turned next to Bershanskaya not by accident – by that moment she had had ten-years’ seniority in aviation and consummate planner gift. One of the “Dunka’s regiment” pilot’s grandson V. Stasyuk makes the case that Yevdokiya Bershanskaya was “the example of valour, self-control, courage and bravery, and they aligned with her in this case” for her people. “She was armed with collection of leadership qualities, which put her in charge of them deservedly”. The girls, who had just left school, served in Bershanskaya’s regiment.

As a person Yevdokiya Bershanskaya provoke great interest. We can call her behaviour unstained: she never raised her voice, was kind but exacting. Her authority was indisputable. Keeping external coolness Yevdokiya Davydovna Bershanskaya worried emotionally about every experience and most of all – her charges death. She set a goal – to reduce young woman-pilots death as much as possible, due to most of them had no life experience. And she turned out well – the deaths was minimized.

As a professional Bershanskaya showed herself sensationally. “Night Witches” operation flights were made on U-2 airplanes (Po-2) – small and light ones. Those planes were represented by wood construction; their cockpits were open-type, low-speed, but device board were the simplest. M.S. Petrikevich defines those aircraft as “…they were initially constructed not for battle, but for training. There was not even ammunition chest for aerial bombs (projectiles were hung up under the “belly” of the aircraft on special bomb racks)”. Maximum speed , that such machine could develop, was about 120 km/h and under such modest armament the young ladies showed miracle of piloting. In addition each Po-2 carried out the cargo of a big bomber, not infrequently up to 200 kg at a time.”[4,c.69].

Nevertheless, exactly such features – lightness and small size – made it possible for crew appeared unexpectedly from nowhere, scaring enemies and making mystical impression. The difficulty was that impactions against enemies had to be done just from those planes – accurate and surprise. Of course, trainings were needed, but to dream about full-fledged simulators they could not in case of war. And then Y.D. Bershanskaya invented her own simulator so as he pilots could orient themselves correctly by night having just data before their eyes. She offered to cover cockpit with a cap creating an illusion of night sky and pilots were studying to control the aircraft in such darkness.

That “invention” of Yevdokiya Bershanskaya was found more than efficient. The fascists were horrified by “Night Witches” raids, who killed the engines during approach to the target and appeared silently in the sky and then hit the target correctly. If a fascist pilot shoot down one of the “Night Witches” plane, he got the Iron Cross – such fearless women-pilots of that unique female regiment were appreciated. The merit in such qualified pilot training of that regiment was belonged to Yevdokiya Davydovna Bershanskaya. She showed distinguished qualities during command under aviation regiment: mental flexibility, an instant response, cautiousness, emotional resilience, hardiness (bodily and psychological). But atmosphere was off not any person could suffer such things. War time in itself is heartrending experience. To be an air regiment battle commander is much more difficult complex task and great responsibility.

“Night Witches” had to fly blind mostly, at times under extremely adverse weather conditions. Naturally, that in such situation a plane had to be flown specially, and Yevdokiya Bershanskaya was able to use special methods of flying greatly.

During aim definition major Bershanskaya always clear designated the situation and expected difficulties. The she-pilot of her regiment R.E. Aronova (1920-1982) described her commander actions in her book “Night Witches” as: “Issuing the challenge, major Bershanskaya paid our attention to place changing and our location beacon duty-duty schedule. – the furthest beacon – she said – is about 8 kilometers straight to the north. In every 5 minutes it will make 3 rotations by the beam and then 3 wobblinesses to the west. I ask you to take into account, in view of closeness of front line take-off blackout will be especially careful…”[1,c.73]

That extract is evidence of Ye. D. Bershanskaya always found her bearings on the ground and possessed the highest level professional knowledge. An impressive success of the regiment is her service too. G. N. Kameneva writes: “Constantly, in all-weather appearing on take-off she controlled flights herself, using night time primarily; the idea of building wooden aerodromes, team mode of servicing and others were belonged to her, and all these allowed the regiment to make so many flights” [5, c.19]. The author highlights such important personal and professional Bershanskaya’s features as exactingness (not just to others, but to herself), absolute honesty, justice [5, c.19].

“Night Witches” contributed to victory (23,672 combat missions). This is especially true for liberation of the southern part of our country – Taman, Kuban, Novorossiysk, Crimea (almost half of the amount of flights). But they were educated and trained by Yevdokiya Davydovna Bershanskaya, who like million others went to the front to protect her Motherland.. Yevdokiya Davydovna Bershanskaya supervised Unique Women’s Night Bomber Regiment, became the only woman who was also awarded the Order of Suvorov 3rd class.


  1. Aronova R.E. “Nochnye ved’my”. – M.: Kraft+, 2013. – 352 c.
  2. Yevdokiya Bershanskaya [Electronic resource]//URL: https://tvzvezda.ru/schedule/programs/content/201509181301-qpj0.htm/201803071052-lwta.htm
  3. Magid A.S. G. Gvardeyskiy Tamanskiy aviatsionny polk. — М.: DOSAAF, 1960. – 288 с.
  4. Petrikevich M.S. Nochnye Петрикевич М.С. Ночные ved'my//Urok tsenoyu sudeb. Tezisy dokladov mezhdunarodnoy studencheskoy nauchno-prakticheskoy konferentsii. – Minsk: BGU, 2018. – С.68 – 70.

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