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This memoir by Oleg Oksevski is fascinating and covers subjects not often written about in World War II histories. Oleg was a young flight officer of Russian ancestry but loyal to his Yugoslavian nation where he was raised. He and his brother were trained to fly British twin engine bombers. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in April of 1941, most of the Yugoslavian aircraft were destroyed on the ground by German bombers. The British evacuated 200 Yugoslavian pilots to Egypt to join the fight against the Axis power. Oleg and his brother missed the last plane leaving for Egypt and were forced to go into hiding to evade being sent to prison camps. Later through connections they were able to bluff their way into the German Luftwaffe who believed they were Croatians loyal to the Axis. At the first opportunity, Oleg and his brother and two others flew their bomber and landed behind Russian lines to hand it over to the Soviets and request their assistance to travel on to Egypt to join forces with the British. They were stunned when they were promptly arrested by the NKVD (Soviet state police) and thrown into Lubyanka prison in Moscow.
This story is really not at all about flying, it is an epic of survival against terrible odds. The most fascinating aspect of Oleg's experiences was his observations within the Soviet state and their paranoid reactions to his defection. Oleg and his compatriots were secreted away so that Allied diplomats would not learn of their existence. Tortured and eventually sent of as POW's (a death sentence in wartime Russian) the four survived on the good will of local commanders who knew they were Allied flyers. Later, the NKVD attempted to recruit the men as spies and return them to Tito's communist Yugoslavia, which they refused to do. Stalin returned them to Yugoslavia in 1946 without any documentation believing they would be executed as spies.
The narrator Don Warrick does an admirable job with the many foreign names and words. It must be said this is an audio book that requires your attention with a lot of detail. It is also narrated in a rather soft spoken manner. This is no way detracted from the story, but it would be difficult to listen to this recording on your drive to work. I would recommend this memoir to anyone interested in Balkan and Russian history. Anyone looking to learn more about the NKVD and the inner workings of the Gulag system will find this a valuable first person source. It must be noted there are few memoirs like this translated into English and even fewer on audio. It was a compelling story.
Audiobook was provided for review by the author.
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8 of 10 people found this review helpful
Liked it a lot. I never heard such a tale of survival against such brutal stupidity. But survive he did by being true to his values. Inspirational. Great that he wrote it himself. He repeats himself at times is my only quibble but who cares. Like he says, others refused to tell this story the real way it happened. He had to tell it. learned a lot from this behind the lines tale. Narator is very good.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful