From the KGB file on Maryam Bakrazde, transferred from NKVD records April 14, 1954
Dearest Sergei and Yergei,
Well, here I am – your beautiful Maryam, only a few days at the front and already in the hospital. You did tell me it would not be like crop dusting.
The 588th is a truly amazing unit, and a tribute to what women can accomplish when we are given our freedom. We attack the Germans relentlessly, fearlessly, constantly. It is our task to support our brothers at the front by never giving the Hitlerite invaders a moment’s rest, a single quiet moment. Always we are nipping at their heels, snapping and biting.
Of course I cannot say where we are, but believe me we see constant action. And my sisters in the regiment are simply amazing! Upon arrival, I found myself suddenly thrust into the leadership of a section of aircraft, pilots, and navigators. It was not a role I had expected, but I attempted to rise to the responsibility. I owed it to the amazing individuals I serve with.
Since then we have flown many missions. Often we fly several times per night. We take off at dusk, drop our bombs on the target, and return, sweeping down the runway crying “More bombs! More bombs!”. And then we are off again, into the night sky. Often we shut down our engines over the target so that the Germans cannot hear us coming, and sail over the target with no more sound than the wind whispering over the wings. We have heard that the Germans hate and fear us, and have begun calling us “Night Witches” because the they think our aircraft sound like broomsticks.
So how did I end up in the hospital? I fear the story is not too dramatic. We we drop bombs on the Germans, and sometimes they shoot back at us. Despite their poor aim, sometimes one or two will get lucky. That’s what happened to me. We were over the target, and had just dropped our bombs successfully, when we were hit by shrapnel from a flak gun. I was hit in the legs and lost consciousness. That would have been the end, but my heroic navigator, Sgt. Teremova, was able to successfully land the plane, even though she was also badly wounded. She pulled me to safety after the landing. I owe her my life.
So now I have a little German souvenir in my leg, and a cane to help me get around. But my feet still reach the rudder pedals, and I am anxious to fly again. Now that I have only nine toes, perhaps one of you will finally be able to catch me!