Mariya Dolina could be considered the “Grandmother of Soviet bomber aviation.” She was horn on December 18, 1922, in the Omsk region of Siberia. She was the eldest of ten children born into an impoverished farm family, and when her father became totally disabled she dropped out of the eighth grade to work at a factory. Dolina joined a glider club and became the best student in the class. She could not go to flight school as she was two years younger than the acceptance age so the leader of the flying club solved this problem by adding two years to her age, which to this day remains unchanged in official records. She graduated from Kherson Flying School before the war as a lieutenant in the reserves and was involved in commercial aviation. When the war suddenly came Dolina’s first task was to help ferry out aircraft and destroy her airfield’s hangars and fuel to prevent them from falling into enemy hands. The following day, she was formally accepted for military service. After training, Dolina was assigned to the 587th Dive-Bomber Regiment, which flew the fast and demanding Petlyakov Pe-2 twin-engine medium bomber, which carried a crew of three. Dolina flew daylight missions as assistant commander of the air squadron, which was later, renamed the 125th M.M. Raskova Borisov Guards Dive-Bomber Regiment. On June 2, 1943, Dolina's plane was damaged during a bombing mission over Kuban. Initially hit by fierce anti-aircraft fire, she completed her run and fled for home. On the way, then were attacked by German fighters and set on fire. Her gunner managed to shoot down one and they belly landed on a grassy field. The entire aircraft went up in flames: the male gunner who was wounded in the leg, pried open the canopy and pulled the two women out, the other woman was Galina Dzhunkovskaya. All three were on fire and rolled on the ground to extinguish the flames. They were picked up by artillerymen and Dolina spent over a month in the hospital with a spinal compression injury, which plagues her to this day. Mariya Ivanovna Dolina Ground attacks during daylight operations against the enemy were extremely dangerous. Only five women aviators in Pe-2s lived long enough to become Heroines. Guards Capt Mariya Dolina completed 72 missions and became a Heroine of the Soviet Union on 18th August 1945. She had shot down three enemy planes and dropped 45,000 kg of bombs on the enemy during her war career. After the war, Dolina served in various political posts. She became a heroine again when she spoke at the Congress of War Veterans in Moscow on Victory Day 1990. She spoke so passionately about the plight of the aging female war veterans that no one dared interrupt her for 10 minutes despite a strict live minute time limit. Turning to President Mikhail Gorbachev twice, she demanded higher pensions in an unprecedented display of conviction. Gorbachev twice responded by standing up, nodding his approval, and applauding her. The next day, pensions were increased. President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine, on the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Great Patriotic War, promoted her to the rank of major. She now resides with her son in Kiev.