I have always loved the world that Strike Witches was set in. The WWII meets alien invaders meets magical girls combination gives something for everyone. Added to the mix is a distinct lack of pants and cute animal ears and it is not surprising that the Strike Witches franchise has had such staying power. What was fascinating for me as I started delving into the series more was that the main characters are all based on real WWII fighter aces. Charlotte Yeager tipped me off as an homage to Chuck Yeager (the first man to break the sound barrier in flight) so I knew I would find out more about the other pilots if I did some digging. One pilot in particular stood out to me though above the rest and that was Sanya Litvyak.
Sanya Litvak’s persona is based on Lydia Vladimirovna Litvyak who was a Jewish Soviet pilot in WWII. Lydia started her military career by joining the 586th Fighter Regiment of the Air Defense Force after lying about her pre-war flight hours. She was transitioned to the 437th Fighter Regiment where she scored her first two kills while piloting a Yak-1. Lydia and three other female pilots were assigned participate in future sorties using a tactic called okhotniki, which stands for free hunter. Okhotniki refers to pairs of pilots being allowed to search and engage targets on their own initiative.
On August 1, 1943, at only 21 year old, Lydia Litvyak was shot down over Ukraine and she never returned from her mission. She was rumored to be captured by the Germans and this was prevented from being awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Her comrade Yekaterina Vasylievna Budanova led a search for her body for over 30 years and in 1979, Soviet authorities confirmed that the remains of an unidentified grave in the village of Dmitrievka were indeed Lydia. In 1990 Lydia Litvyak was awarded the title of Her of the Soviet Union.