Gridnev and rumors of Litviak's survival

A rumor is circulating that Gridnev says Litviak survived. Ekaterina Polunina wrote in her 2004 book Devchonki, Podruzhki, Letchitsy (p146) that "The unpublished writings of 586th commander Aleksandr Gridnev appear even more reliable. It was transmitted to him from the command post: 'Listen: Liliia Litviak is speaking in German on the radio.' Gridnev's manuscript was given to the Monino archive."

Gridnev's manuscript says no such thing. Gridnev gave me a copy of his manuscript in 1993; it's almost certainly the same work that is purportedly at Monino. There is a brief chapter about the single occasion when Gridnev and Litviak met. Gridnev wrote that on Litviak told him she spoke German and had been able to speak once to a German pilot she had shot down who had been captured.

Polunina's allegation may be a simple mix-up. She may have misread this chapter, or it was distorted in a "telephone game" retelling by others. She does not give a date for the supposed event or any comment from Gridnev.

If Gridnev did write somewhere that he heard Litviak on the radio, it would raise many questions. Why would Litviak be speaking in German on the radio? If she was being used for propaganda purposes, she would probably be speaking in Russian to the Red Army. How was she identified? Did she use her own name? If she had, and the broadcast had been heard in a regimental command post, there would certainly have been political reports to that effect and Litviak would never have been awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union. If Litviak did not use her name, how was she identified? Gridnev had only met her once. If a German-language broadcast of an unidentified Russian female pilot was intercepted, it would be difficult to conclusively identify the speaker as Litviak. One might expect Gridnev to have written something more than just the shocking statement that "Liliia Litviak is speaking in German on the radio."

I interviewed Gridnev several times and we talked about Litviak; he never mentioned hearing her on the radio or voiced any suspicion that she had survived.

This "evidence" that Litviak made a radio statement in German during the war is hearsay and implausible. The likelihood of the event actually occurring is improbable; a positive identification of the speaker would have been extremely difficult; and the original source of this information has not been produced.

On the contrary, the supposed author of this information, Aleksandr Gridnev, did leave a complete unpublished memoir and numerous interviews and letters, none of which mentioned this episode. Did Gridnev gave something different to Monino than the 300-page memoir he gave to me? When Lyuba Vinogradova went to Monino in 2011, they told her they couldn't find any papers from Gridnev.

In some sources, the unverified allegation in Polunina's book has become a "fact" —but there's no evidence to support her statement. This is one of many rumors that I address in "The Death of Lidiia Litviak: Rumor, Hearsay, and Evidence about the Death of the World's First Female Fighter Ace."

What Gridnev actually wrote about Liliia Litviak can be read here.