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“The Witch of the Night”: The Story of Khiuaz Dospanova – the Only Kazakh Female Pilot during WWII


In the skies against the German forces during WWII, there fought the sole Kazakh female pilot, Khiuaz Dospanova. The editorial at presents the remarkable tale of her life.

Khiuaz Dospanova was born on 15th of May, 1922, in the former Gurievskaya (current Atyrau) region. Her family moved to the neighboring Uralsk during her school years, where Khiuaz received her secondary education.

Her father, Kair Dospanov, worked as a fisherman before becoming a party worker. He held various positions across the republic, which necessitated frequent relocations for the family—to Aktobe, Shymkent, Kyzyl-Orda, Almaty, and Uralsk. The family consisted of four children: the eldest, Khiuaz, her brothers Belmergen and Marat, and her younger sister, Alma.

Khiuaz aspired to become a pilot, so in the 9th grade, a girl from a fishing village, who found herself in Uralsk after her family moved, she immediately enrolled in the aeroclub. To master the art of flying, she regularly attended lessons, yet this had no impact on her academic achievements. She was a diligent and intelligent student and graduated from high school with a gold medal, simultaneously obtaining the title of reserve pilot.

Her parents supported her ambitions and assisted with her admission to the aeroclub, where she learned to fly on training aircraft “Po-2”. It was these very planes that the women’s squadron “The Night Witches” flew during combat missions.

In the summer of 1940, Khiuaz traveled to Moscow and submitted her documents, not to a university, but to the Zhukovsky Air Force Academy. Unfortunately, they did not admit women there. The Kazakhstani native received a polite but firm rejection. It was a blow to her dream. It seemed like the path to the skies was closed forever.

However, Khiuaz Dospanova decided not to return home and applied to the First Moscow Medical Institute. With her excellent academic record, she was admitted to the institute without exams. A year later, the War began. Dospanova was in her second year at the medical institute when she decided to join the frontline. But students were assigned to the construction of the Moscow metro line.

By autumn, when the threat of capture loomed over Moscow, the students were directed to dig defensive structures. When Khiuaz learned that a women’s aviation regiment was being formed under the command of Marina Raskova, she submitted an application and was accepted.


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