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Gelman, Polina (1919–)

Gelman, Polina (1919–)

Soviet combat navigator. Name variations: Polya. Pronunciation: Puh-LEE-na Vlah-di-MEE-ruv-nuh GEL-mun. Born Polina Vladimirovna Gelman in Oct 1919 in Berdichev, Ukraine, USSR; dau. of Vladimir (tailor) and Yelya (worker) Gelman; undergraduate study in department of history, Moscow State University; trained as Spanish linguist, Military Institute of Foreign Languages; completed graduate dissertation in economics, earning Candidate of Sciences (Economics) degree; m. Vladimir Kolosov (now a retired lieutenant colonel), 1948; children: daughter Galina Kolosov, a historian (b. 1949).

Night-bomber navigator during World War II, who received the Hero of the Soviet Union medal for bravery in combat; moved with family to Gomel, Byelorussia (1920); entered Moscow State University (1938); joined Soviet Air Force (Oct 1941) and was assigned to Marina Raskova's training group, Aviation Group No. 122; as a member of the famous "night witches" bomber regiment of Soviet female aviators, served as navigator with 588th Night Bomber Aviation Regiment (later redesignated 46th Guards, 1942–45); during her three years as a navigator, flew 860 combat missions, nearly all at night, in the rickety old open-cockpit Po-2 biplane, harassing German troops, disrupting the soldiers' rest, and wreaking what damage could be wreaked on military targets near the front lines (of the 46th; 31 women, or about 27% of the flying personnel, were killed in combat); served as military linguist; resigned from military service (1956) with rank of guards major; completed graduate education; served as senior lecturer (docent) and associate professor in department of Political Economy at Moscow Institute of Social Sciences. Awarded Hero of the Soviet Union.

See also Women in World History.

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