Born 1921 Odessa, Ukraine.
Interviewed In: Toronto, Ontario
Medals Awarded: Order of the Patriotic War (1st and 2nd Class), Order of the Red Star, Medal for Battle Merit, Medal For Defense of Moscow and Victory over Germany In The Great Patriotic War
Air Force Pilot And Engineer With Long Range Reconnaissance Aviation Regiments – Defense of Moscow.
Received Engraved Watch For Engineering Contributions
“I Had No Fear At All”
Arkadi was born at the end of a forced famine. Ukrainian Nationalists murdered his father before he turned 2. Never having received a proper birth certificate, Arkadi could not attend public school. Arkadi’s mother worked extra hours as a seamstress to pay for his Jewish education. Despite his difficult upbringing Arkadi considered himself a patriot and enrolled in military college in 1938. He was an air force engineer by 1940.
Arkadi’s first assignments were inspections of various aerodromes throughout the western front. He was on one of these survey missions, near Belarus, when the Nazis invaded in 1941. During The Red Army’s initial retreat, Arkadi’s unit passed through Minsk while regrouping to the Moscow area:
“When we reached Minsk, we saw a terrible picture. The entire downtown Minsk…all the buildings were bare, without roofs – Germans had bombed down Minsk. We didn’t stay
long in Minsk, because Germans were advancing unrestrainedly and without resistance as the troops had been taken unawares”.
Arkadi’s regiment was stationed just outside Moscow in late 1941 and stayed until the battle was over in early 1942. They flew reconnaissance missions every night, monitoring the movements of Nazi forces. Arkadi realized nighttime cameras needed to be improved:
“We created a new camera. The idea was that at night the objective lens needed to be open. When a bomb is released, it explodes, and during 1/50 sec. the shutter should close. We were sitting nights working on creating such a camera. We succeeded. And I went on a testing in field conditions. The bombers were coming in to our regiment. We reequipped them into reconnaissance planes. We were implementing new equipment. Later a swinging device was designed and made with my participation. It was a vertical device, swinging left and right. That way we saved…well 1 plane was performing the scope of 3 planes when taking pictures of a large area.”
Arkadi was one of the few engineers that insisted on personally field testing their designs: “After we made a new nigh-vision photo camera, I insisted that I was permitted to go on missions. I had no fear at all. Even when I suggested myself to go on a mission with the new device, I had no fear whatsoever. By the way this is what happened on one of the missions. All of a sudden, the radio operator/gunner shouts…the third man on the crew…’Commander! A fighter on the right!’ I looked to the right and saw a headlight turned in our direction…turned in our direction I was so calm. The pilot made a wise decision. He dived into the clouds. We became invisible. Later, when we were approaching Vitebsk airdrome, he dived out of clouds. When we were getting closer, flying under clouds and over the airdrome, that’s when I felt…those sounds of powerful anti-aircraft artillery, those searchlights”.
Arkadi immigrated to Toronto after the war. He is part of a veterans committee that visits schools to talk about Jewish life in The Soviet Union and World War Two