Inna Pasportnikova, 1920-2007

Senior Sergeant Faina (Inna) Vladimirovna Pleshchivtseva [married name: Pasportnikova] served as an aircraft mechanic with several fighter regiments during the Great Patriotic War.
Units and assignments:
586th Fighter Aviation Regiment: 16 April-10 Sep 1942
437th Fighter Aviation Regiment: 10 Sep-1 Oct 1942
9th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment 1 Oct 1942 - 8 Jan 1943
73rd Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment 8 Jan- ?1943

In a letter to Reina Pennington (27 Aug 1992), Pasportnikova explained something about her background:
“I was born February 6, 1920 in the village of Bazarnyi Karabulak in the Saratov region. My father finished teacher's seminary and the Kazan military school before the First World War. He fought in the First World War and was awarded medals (crosses). During the Civil War he fought on the side of the Reds. He died in 1937. When I was born, my grandfather wanted to christen me in the church. My father objected. But my grandfather christened me all the same in the absence of my father and gave me the name Faina. The same day my father registered me and gave me the name of Inna. When my father got home and they told him that they had already given me the name Faina, he kept silent and didn't even tell my mother that I had a second name. Mama found out about this only during the war, when she was processing her pension. She told me about it. I didn't want to change my name, but in 1950 during the universal passport exchange, they forced me to take the new name. My father called me Inna his whole life. We all thought that this was a nickname for Faina."

In 1941, Faina Vladimirovna Pleshchivtseva, as she was known then, was a student at the Moscow Aviation Institute. When Marina Raskova formed women's aviation regiments in October 1941, Pasportnikova volunteered. She hoped to become a navigator, but was instead trained to be an aircraft mechanic. In 1942 she was assigned to the 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment as Fighter Aviation Regiment as crew commander to pilot Raia Surnachevskaia in the 2nd squadron.

When the first squadron of the 586th was detailed to go to Stalingrad in September 1942, Pasportnikova volunteered, even though she was in the second squadron. She recalled, "Surnachevskaia was very much offended and said that I had betrayed her. Of course she knew we all wanted to go to the front." She was assigned to Mariia Kuznetsova's crew. Raia Beliaeva, Katia Budanova, Mariia Kuznetsova and Lilia Litviak were sent to the 437th Fighter Aviation Regiment near Stalingrad, together with their crews.

In October the women were transferred again to the 9th Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment. When the women were ordered to return to the 586th, Litviak and Budanova remained in the 9th Guards. Litviak's mechanic wanted to go back to the 586th; Pasportnikova says, "Lilia persuaded me to remain with her crew."
Her comrades called her "Fainka." Litviak called her "the professor." Pasportnikova said in 1992, " the nickname "professor" — this was Lilia's invention. Although she fought excellently, she did not like to give interviews or, as they say, to brag. And therefore she really didn't like to answer all the questions of the newspaper correspondents and journalists who visited, and she sent them to me, saying, "There, go to the "professor," she knows everything and can tell you everything." (Inna Vladimirovna Pasportnikova, letter to Reina Pennington, 3 Sep 1992)

Aircraft mechanics were unsung heroes. Inna described what her work was like:

"My hands are scarred and misshapen because of the kerosene we used. Many parts of the engine were very hard to get to and it was impossible to wear our gloves when we worked. When it was very cold I would touch the engine and my fingers stuck to it and it pulled the skin off. The brakes worked by air pressure and the compressed air container weighted 60 kilos. In the summer I could roll it but in the winter I had to carry it. I would put it on my shoulder and carry it from one plane to another because the engines started with pressurized air." (Anne Noggle, A Dance with Death: Soviet Airwomen in World War II (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994), 196-197.

"It was very difficult physically to be an aircraft mechanic during the war: the aircraft always had to be ready for flight. They could be bombing or strafing the airfield, but we still had to take off. The aircraft arrived from a combat mission at times with holes: repairs. If it returned in normal condition, it meant that in a day were several flights and only refueling and rearming. We slept, especially in the summer, 3-4 hours, right in a slit trench behind the aircraft. In winter, if we even lived in a village, at night we went to the airfield to warm up the engine. We took off at times in the dark, but in such a way as to land with the dawn. The male-mechanics felt sorry for me, but did not help me: they hardly hard time to cope with their own aircraft. And the parking stands were at great distances from each other, and you always had to be at the aircraft." (Inna Vladimirovna Pasportnikova, letter to Reina Pennington, 3 Sep 1992)

Pasportnikova was not present on the day that Liliia Litviak died; she had gone to Moscow for academic tests. She got back to the 73rd the next day and learned that Litviak was missing in action. She served briefly on the crew of the division commander Boris Arsen'evich Sidnev, then was stricken with scarlet fever and invalided out of the service.

In 1945 Pasportnikova returned to the Moscow Aviation Institute. For the next thirty years, she worked as an aviation engineer for experimental aircraft; she retired in 1976. Soon after, she became involved in searches to locate Litviak's remains so that Litviak could receive the Hero of the Soviet Union title.

She wrote in 1992: "I was long tormented by the question of how to prove that Lilia was killed heroically, and did not turn out be in captivity. There was only one possibility: to find her remains. And I vowed that I would do this while I lived." (Inna Vladimirovna Pasportnikova, letter to Reina Pennington, 3 Sep 1992)

This site will eventually include transcripts of interviews and letters by Pasportnikova. You can read more about and by Pasportnikova in these sources:

Eremin, Boris Nikolaevich. Interview with Reina Pennington, 10 May 1993.
Gribanov, Stanislav Vikent'evich. "Ognennaia Liliia." In Geroi I Podvigi, edited by M. F. Loshchits, 151-157. Moscow: Voenizdat, 1966.
———. "Vyletala Liliia V Boi." Aviatsiia i kosmonavtika no. 3 (1968): 15-19.
———. Na Ognennykh Vysotakh. Moscow: DOSAAF, 1977.
Noggle, Anne. A Dance with Death: Soviet Airwomen in World War II. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1994.
Ovchinnikova, L. P. Zhenshchiny v soldatskikh shineliakh. Volgograd: Nizhne-Volzhskoe, 1987.
Pasportnikova, Inna. "Geroi Ne Umiraiut." In V Nebe Frontovom: Sbornik Vospominaniy Sovetskikh Letchits-Uchastnits Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny, edited by M. A. Kazarinova, N. F. Kravtsova and A. A. Poliantseva, 369-379. Moscow: Molodaia Gvardiia, 1971.
Pasportnikova, Inna Vladimirovna. "Moi Komandir." In author's collection, 1989.
———. Letters to Reina Pennington, , 27 Aug 1992 and 3 Sep 1992.
———. Interviews with Reina Pennington, 8 May, 12 May and 15 May 1993.
Popovich, M. L. "Nebesnaia Diana." Voenno-istoricheskii zhurnal no. 3 (1995): 86-88.