Oleg Okshevsky was born a son of a Russian Tsarist cavalry officer in 1915, in Yevpatoriya, Russia. Because of the Russian Revolution he was raised in Serbia and went to school at a Russian Cadet Academy. He later became a bomber pilot in the Royal Yugoslavian Air Force. When war broke out and Germany invaded Yugoslavia, Nazis told Serbians to walk to concentration camps, while the Croatians sympathized and gave in to Hitler. Oleg refused to walk to any sort of camp. He hid out hoping to meet a sub with other Serbian pilots leaving for North Africa to join American and British pilots to fight the Nazis. He literally missed the boat and now became stuck, surrounded by Germans. Oleg and his brother decided to pretend they were with the Croatians in order to get their hands on a plane and join the allies in Africa to fight the Nazis. After much training in Germany and the brothers miraculously still together, they ended up in the same plane with orders to fly not west but east! They were stunned not knowing what to do next. They were hoping on a mission anywhere but east. Still naïve in their mid-20s, and not understanding yet the full extent of Communism back then, they thought they would make the best of it and fly to Russia. After all, the Soviets were allies - Right? The bombing mission they were on flies in formation with other bombers to the Eastern Front. With great skill and risk, pilot Oleg banks his plane away from the rest of the formation and dramatically changes course heading into Soviet territory in a German plane. He flew for some time while being shot at by both Germans and Soviets and finally landed in a potato field on the outskirts of a Russian village. Villagers were shocked that a German bomber now sat in their village. Oleg explained everything to them until the KGB showed up. The KGB took them to the infamous Lubyanka prison in Moscow where they were interrogated. Oleg and Lev forgot how much danger they were still in.
©2015 George Oleg Okshewsky (P)2015 George Oleg Okshewsky
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This memoir by Oleg Oksevski is fascinating and covers subjects not often written about in World War II histories. Oleg was a young flight officer of Russian ancestry but loyal to his Yugoslavian nation where he was raised. He and his brother were trained to fly British twin engine bombers. When Germany invaded Yugoslavia in April of 1941, most of the Yugoslavian aircraft were destroyed on the ground by German bombers. The British evacuated 200 Yugoslavian pilots to Egypt to join the fight against the Axis power. Oleg and his brother missed the last plane leaving for Egypt and were forced to go into hiding to evade being sent to prison camps. Later through connections they were able to bluff their way into the German Luftwaffe who believed they were Croatians loyal to the Axis. At the first opportunity, Oleg and his brother and two others flew their bomber and landed behind Russian lines to hand it over to the Soviets and request their assistance to travel on to Egypt to join forces with the British. They were stunned when they were promptly arrested by the NKVD (Soviet state police) and thrown into Lubyanka prison in Moscow.
This story is really not at all about flying, it is an epic of survival against terrible odds. The most fascinating aspect of Oleg's experiences was his observations within the Soviet state and their paranoid reactions to his defection. Oleg and his compatriots were secreted away so that Allied diplomats would not learn of their existence. Tortured and eventually sent of as POW's (a death sentence in wartime Russian) the four survived on the good will of local commanders who knew they were Allied flyers. Later, the NKVD attempted to recruit the men as spies and return them to Tito's communist Yugoslavia, which they refused to do. Stalin returned them to Yugoslavia in 1946 without any documentation believing they would be executed as spies.
The narrator Don Warrick does an admirable job with the many foreign names and words. It must be said this is an audio book that requires your attention with a lot of detail. It is also narrated in a rather soft spoken manner. This is no way detracted from the story, but it would be difficult to listen to this recording on your drive to work. I would recommend this memoir to anyone interested in Balkan and Russian history. Anyone looking to learn more about the NKVD and the inner workings of the Gulag system will find this a valuable first person source. It must be noted there are few memoirs like this translated into English and even fewer on audio. It was a compelling story.
Audiobook was provided for review by the author.
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There have been many amazing survival stories that emerged in the aftermath of World War II, and Flying With the Enemy deserves to be up there with the greatest of them. Oleg's story, lovingly packaged together by his son, gets more incredible as it goes along. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys similar stories, from Unbroken to Band of Brothers. While it is clear that the voice narrator's accent is not his own, it does add a nice touch to an amazing story, making you feel as if Oleg was still with us, telling us the story of how he made it through World War II and came to be in America.
Yes, the telling of Oleg's story really puts you in his shoes and helps you understand his trials getting to the west from Yugoslavia.
Oleg's landing in the Soviet Union was my most memorable moment in Flying with the Enemy. It was a mixture of excitement and intrigue as Oleg lands to be welcomed by Soviet aviators and then arrested by Soviet internal police.
I was amazed by Oleg's ability to overcome such extreme situations and talk his way out of such serious situations as Lubyanka Prison.
I highly recommend this book to those looking for a great story about one man's struggle escaping both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. It is a true tale of heroism.
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