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Polina Gelman
Born (1919-10-24)October 24, 1919
Died 25 November 2005(2005-11-25) (aged 86)
Place of birth Berdychiv, Ukraine
Place of death Moscow, Russia
Allegiance  Soviet Union  Russia
Awards Hero of the Soviet Union Order of Lenin

Polina Vladimirovna Gelman (Russian: Поли́на Влади́мировна Ге́льман, Ukrainian language: Поли́на Володи́мирівна Ге́льман

24 October 1919, Berdychiv – 25 November 2005, Moscow) was a Soviet Air Force officer, decorated as a Hero of the Soviet Union for her service with the famed Night Witches unit during World War II.[1]


Born to a working-class Jewish family from the Ukrainian city of Berdychiv in 1919, Gelman joined the Soviet military in October 1941 after repeated disqualifications of her attempt to volunteer as a result of her short stature. Following a course of training in aviation, she became a navigator in 1942 with the all-female 588th "Night Witches" Night Bomber Regiment, later known as the 46th Taman Division. Gelman had completed 860 missions by the time of Nazi Germany's capitulation to the Allies and was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union in 1946. Continuing her career as a professional military officer, she was sent for instruction as a military translator, graduating from the Military Institute of Foreign Languages in 1951.

Gelman settled in Moscow following her retirement from active service as a major in 1957. She worked at the Institute of Social Sciences [2] and taught political economy as a college instructor until retiring in 1990. Gelman attained the rank of lieutenant colonel in the reserves. A member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union since 1942, she was also sent as an advisor and translator to Cuba.

Gelman's memoirs of her years as a pilot were published in Moscow in 1982.

She died on 25 November 2005 in Moscow, where she was buried at Novodevichy Cemetery.

Honours and awards


  • Milanetti, Gian Piero (2013). Soviet Airwomen of the Great Patriotic War - A pictorial history. Istituto Bibliografico Napoleone, Rome, Italy. ISBN 9788875651466. 


  1. Hero of the Soviet Union medal.png  Polina Gelman at the "Герои страны" ("Heroes of the Country") website (Russian)

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