Grigory Svirsky

Grigory Svirsky

Born September 29th 1921 Ufa, Soviet Union.

Interviewed In: Toronto, Ontario

Air Force Mechanic And Gunner Based Near Arctic Sea. Well Known In Russia For WWII Books And Social Criticism – Works Banned In 1968 And He Was Forced To Leave In 1972.

Grigory Svirksy was born while his mother was traveling between Ufa and Moscow. He grew up in a “typically working class” household near the ball bearing plant in Moscow where his father worked. Grigory was drafted in 1939 when he was 18.

Initially Grigory was an air force mechanic. He would eventually fly combat missions as a gunner:

“At the beginning of the war I was a mechanic, a bomber mechanic. Later on I started going on missions. When your plane is in the air it would be weird to stay on the ground. I started as an air gunner. I went on missions during the entire war, until the war was over.” 

Grigory’s unit rarely stayed in one area. They were generally confined to the far north, except for a few missions near Moscow. “Afterwards I was transferred to the Northern Fleet. I got to the Northern Fleet. The war there was tough, it was a horrible skirmish, you see? We were fighting on the sea where there were ships with not just one but ten guns they used to make a big gun. Returning from missions I used to find 5 to 10 holes in my plane’s body, you see? I was lucky not to have had a scratch”

Grigory stayed in the army for 7 years, being discharged in 1946. He became a well known writer and academic, specializing in World War Two, Soviet Jews, and social criticism. He spoke out against Soviet policy and was forced to leave the country in 1972. His books were banned 4 years earlier in 1968. Grigory eventually settled in Toronto where he taught Russian Literature at U of T.

Grigory Svirsky’s Books: