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“Ranks among the greatest books and stories about
World War II.”

-Boris Sapunov, PhD., Hermitage Museum

 


One of the world’s great museums acknowledges the cultural importance of the groundbreaking book about the life and times of Russia’s greatest female flying hero.

Ten years ago, I visited a little-known traveling exhibition called World War II though Russian Eyes, at a museum in San Diego, California. As an American product of the Cold War, I learned, for the first time, that an estimated 40 million Russian men, women, and children lost their lives defending The Motherland against Adolph Hitler.

I was also moved by the display of human carnage found in letters and pictures from the warfront to loved ones at home. And, it was there I met young Lt. Lilia Litvyak (1921-1943), the world’s first female-fighter pilot, who, despite disappearing in a dogfight over the Eastern Ukraine at the age of 21, set records for missions, kills, and assist that still stand today.

My curiosity was piqued. I wanted to know more about her, the times in which she lived, and what motivated to pursue such an atypical avocation in the male-dominated Soviet society. Quickly, I discovered her story had been relegated to history’s dustbin to all but a few flying aficionados. And, so my dormant passion to right that historical oversight was born.

Over the next few years, I traveled to Russia and Eastern Ukraine, overcoming language and cultural barriers, meeting and living with people I had never before met, interviewing hundreds of ordinary people, including a few of Lilia’s childhood friends. Most importantly, I fashioned a never-before creative collaboration between myself, a Russian Museum curator, Valentina Vaschenko, and a Ukrainian English teacher, Yelena Sivolap. With their help, guidance, treasure-trove of long-neglected Lilia memorabilia, Call Sign, White Lily was born…I forgot to mention there were also about 30 rewrites to the manuscript because my collaborators wanted every last detail to be as it should.


M.G. visits the Lt. Litvak Memorial in Krasny Luch, Eastern Ukraine

I am happy to report, during the last four years thousands of people from all over the world, have come to know young Lilia’s epic story of female accomplishment against all the odds, and have been kind enough to post reviews on Amazon and send me letters and emails.

Equally important, the fact that Boris Sapunov, PhD., the respected Director of Historical Research at the world-famous Hermitage Museum ranked Call Sign, White Lily among the “greatest books and stories ever told about World War II” means Lilia has finally received her just do. In fact, I see her smiling face as I finish this blog.

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