An extraordinary story of a few women pilots who saved 10.000 lives by flying wounded soldiers back from the front line during WWII.
In 1938, the political atmosphere in Europe was increasingly tense – the armies of the Third Reich were marching, USSR threats, simultaneous and combined with those of Germany’s, resulted in frequent incidents caused by Soviet Russia at the border, pushing the Romanian Army to take important measures. Among other things, at the military maneuvers, which took place in the fall of that year, in Galați, five aviatrices, Mariana Drăgescu, Virginia Duțescu, Nadia Russo, Marina Știrbei and Irina Burnaia, had been invited to participate, for the first time, to be put to test and see how they would manage under war. It was about simulating dogfights, liaison missions against the clock, night flights – a sort of playing in the air, some would say, but it was one as serious as possible. And the fact that these women managed admirably in the two weeks of exercises determined the headquarters to declare them fit for mobilization.
”When I first heard about the White Squadron’s story, I was thrilled and very proud to be Romanian and a woman pilot.
A very well-known film director, Dan Pița, told me about this story. One of the female pilots that joined the White Squadron rescued his father during the war. He asked me to find out which one was flying the plane that brought back home his father and handed me a piece of very old and yellowed paper on which it was written the date, hour and place from where his father was picked up. He said to me: “You write, fly and you’re also a woman. Why don’t you write something about this story?”
So, my quest began… I found out that his father was rescued by Mariana Drăgescu, the best of them all, the one who spent hundreds of hours flying above the front lines and carrying wounded, blood or personnel during the entire war, being drafted from the first day until the last, fighting on both fronts, the Eastern and the Western Front. She transported over 1, 500 wounded soldiers.
7 September 1912 – 24 March 2013
I started to research the White Squadron, learning about the pilots and about the war and I discovered a fascinated story about courage, love, friendship, compassion and all the bright side of humanity wrapped into the most terrifying moment of history WWII. I found out about the strength of several women who left their comfort to help others.
I found out that a life spent and dedicated to a higher purpose is much more rewarding than an ordinary and a safe one. As Smaranda Brăescu said: “My life means nothing if I’m keeping it for myself. I dedicate my life to my country and I want to live it in glory. I will only come back as a winner.”
21 May 1897 – 2 February 1948
Romania’s first woman skydiver. In 1932, in Sacramento, USA, she was declared World’s No. 1 athlete after setting the World Record of jumping from high altitude: 7233 meters.
Her record has carried on for 20 years before being outclassed by another Romanian.
She was also the first woman pilot to cross the Mediterranean Sea in a single-seat airplane from Rome to Tripoli in 6 hours and 10 minutes.
A Romanian Paratroopers Unit’s battle flag is presently bearing her name.
I wrote the story based on the real facts, the majority of the events are real, and the characters have their actual names.
For the benefit of both history and writing, I managed to find ways to present their story in such a manner that serves aviation, reality and writing needs.
I believe that this story will bring hope to people and encourage humans to pursue their dreams and overcome limits. Especially for women, the story is truly motivational.
The story is also about outstanding men that fought on the front lines. It is about the well-known Constantin Cantacuzino, one of Romania’s leading World War II fighter aces, a legend that impressed the world.
CONSTANTIN BÂZU CANTACUZINO
11 November 1905 – 26 May 1958
More than 70 years have passed since WWII ended and I feel that even though it was an event that should never happen again, some wounds healed and I could present the two sides of the front in a more balanced way. Reading books written by pilots, books that were initially journals, I found out that hate manifested itself often between Germans, Romanians, and Russians but on the other hand, love, friendship, and understanding was also present more often than we might think and people tended to help and rescue others in suffering even though they were officially enemies.
I am fascinated by true stories. Even though when a real person appears into a book or a film, that person becomes an artistic character, the fact that I know that that person existed makes me find the story more enticing. In “Aviatrices” all the characters are based on real persons and it would be a pity not to make their story known to the world. The story of the “Aviatrices”, although born in a small country in Eastern Europe, belongs to humanity and nowadays, when all of us think about globalization, we have to share stories from all over the planet so everybody can benefit of every nation’s experience and knowledge.”