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Soviet pilot Rabinovich was officially known as Naum, but in his everyday life, his comrades and relatives knew him as Nyusik. However, behind this boyish name and fragile, yet boyishly figure, hid an ace pilot who personally shot down 5 enemy aircraft in aerial battles. He himself was shot down three times.

The "winged" fighter was born on November 2, 1923, in Zaporizhzhia, in the family of Naum and Yevgenia Rabinovich. His father was a clockmaker, and his mother was a housewife. Naum had two brothers: an older one, Misha, and a younger one, Lion.

In his later years of schooling, the boy, like many of his peers, became passionately interested in aviation. All the boys in Zaporizhzhia then dreamed of being like "Chkalovites" or pilots who saved Chelyuskin's crew, crushed by ice in the Arctic. Right after school, Nyusik ran to the Zaporizhzhia Aero Club, which became a real forge of Soviet aviation personnel. As one of the best, immediately after the 9th grade, he became a cadet at the Kachin Military Aviation School, based near Sevastopol.

The Great Patriotic War caught the Kachin cadets at the very beginning of their training. The command could not send them into battle, so the cadets and all the staff of the military aviation school from Crimea were hastily evacuated to the city of Krasny Kut in the Saratov region. During the evacuation, the Kachin school was transformed into a training school and began to actively prepare pilots for the front.

Nyusik Rabinovich eagerly awaited graduation also because he thirsted for personal vengeance for his brother Mikhail. At the beginning of the war, Misha Rabinovich, a third-year student at the Electrotechnical Institute in Leningrad, volunteered for the front. During the fierce battles near Novgorod in August 1941, Nyusik's older brother went missing.

At that time, the young man did not yet know that his beloved grandfather, Mordechai Gedalievich Rabinovich, had also perished at the hands of Nazi executioners. The elderly man could not be evacuated and remained in the occupied Jewish colony of Inhulets near Kryvyi Rih. For some time, Grandpa Mordechai managed to hide, but he was tracked down by local police, collaborators of the Nazis, and brutally killed. It was later revealed that the monsters burned the old man and his entire family alive in a nailed-up prayer house after the war.

In order to pass the final flight exam, Nyusik and his classmates had to even steal a kerosene tank from a neighboring unit because there was no other way to refuel the training aircraft. However, the "operation" went smoothly, and all the newly qualified pilots were sent to the front with lieutenant epaulets.

In April 1944, Nyusik Rabinovich arrived to serve in the 513th Fighter Aviation Kamianets-Podilskyi Regiment of the 331st Fighter Division, which was fighting on the 1st Ukrainian Front at that time. After a briefing, the young lieutenant was assigned his first combat aircraft - the Yak-3.

However, the Nazi vultures still posed a deadly threat to the advancing Soviet troops. During the first five months of service, Lieutenant Naum Rabinovich flew on combat missions more than eighty times. The work of a fighter pilot was diverse: Nyusik escorted ground-attack aircraft, provided air cover for advancing Soviet units, conducted reconnaissance of enemy troops and equipment.

The lieutenant's first aerial battle occurred almost immediately after arriving at the front. On May 1, 1944, at the Granov airfield near Uman, where the equipment of the 513th air regiment was stationed, a group of six German aircraft attacked. After the initial attack, the Germans prepared for a second raid, but Rabinovich and three other pilots quickly got their planes into the air. The Germans failed to capitalize on their success. Repelling the enemy's second attack, Nyusik and his comrades, in a group battle, managed to shoot down one of the German attackers.

The next battle became a turning point in Lieutenant Rabinovich's personal victories. This time it happened in the area of the village of Stoyanov in Lviv region. Covering the advancing Soviet group on July 16, 1944, four ground-attack aircraft from the 513th Aviation Regiment encountered four Focke-Wulf-190 fighters and an equal number of Messerschmitt-109s. In the ensuing aerial duel, Naum Rabinovich did not lose his composure and personally shot down a German Focke-Wulf-190. This single-engine aircraft had high speed in dives and allowed German pilots to relatively easily exit combat. Its armament was also formidable, providing a high probability of hitting the enemy on the first pass. However, all these impressive characteristics of the FW-190 did not help the Nazi. The downed German fighter fell, and Lieutenant Rabinovich's plane, despite receiving bullet holes, safely landed on its territory.

For his displayed personal courage and bravery, on August 2, 1944, the lieutenant received his first combat award - the Order of the Red Star. As the air regiment commander, Major Pozdnyakov, reported “to the top”, Rabinovich mastered piloting techniques excellently and bravely fought in aerial combat. In addition, Rabinovich distinguished himself in escorting IL-2 attack aircraft - all of them returned from missions without losses, intact and undamaged. This is considering the high intensity of the battles of the spring-summer of 1944 and the constant attacks on attack aircraft by the German aviation.

In the fall-winter of 1944, the fighters under the command of Major Pozdnyakov, now part of the 2nd Ukrainian Front, took part in the battle for Hungary. During this time, Naum Rabinovich, in his Yak aircraft, took part in 12 aerial battles. During one of them, on December 21, 1944, while covering attack aircraft in the area of Budapest, the lieutenant noticed enemy fighters on the horizon. It was a group of FW-190s, which attempted to attack the group of fighters escorting the bombers. Reacting lightning-fast, Rabinovich rushed to help the lead. Warding off the attack, he hit a German with accurate fire, who crashed to the ground. For successfully conducted combat missions and a productive battle, as well as for personal courage and bravery shown in the battle for the liberation of Budapest, on February 11, 1945, Naum Rabinovich received another award - the Order of the Red Banner.

About a week later, Nyusik Rabinovich distinguished himself once again. In an aerial battle, he had to fend off the attack of German fighters on his squadron leader, Senior Lieutenant Strogonov. The leading German barely had time to react before being shot down by the young lieutenant and crashing near the outskirts of the Hungarian capital.

Lieutenant Rabinovich, whose collection of awards was augmented by the Order of the Patriotic War, 1st Class, soon had luck on his side again. On March 20, 1945, eight Yak fighters under the command of Senior Lieutenant Strogonov escorted a group of sixteen IL-2 aircraft from the 235th Attack Aviation Proskurovsky Regiment. After a while, the pilots received orders from the command post of the 5th Attack Aviation Corps: "Attention, there are 'Fockers' in the air, do not complete the mission, switch to a sweeping flight, return home." The attack planes turned around, but over the village of Környe, they were intercepted by dozens of German fighters attacking the cover group and the combat formation of the Soviet attack aircraft from different directions.

In the ensuing aerial battle, Lieutenant Rabinovich, repelling the attack of a pair of FW-190s targeting a Soviet attacker, managed to approach them from above. From a short distance of 100 meters, the leading German received a burst from Nyusik's OKB-16 motor cannon. The enemy aircraft disintegrated right in the air, and its wreckage, along with the pilot, fell behind the village. The aerial battle continued. This time, Rabinovich acted in tandem with his comrade, Lieutenant Yevseyev, with whom he went on the attack against a pair of "Fockers". Rabinovich opened fire, and Lieutenant Yevseyev supported him. One enemy aircraft fled, while the other caught fire and crashed 7-8 kilometers south of the town of Tata.

In addition to the fierce battles with the enemy, there were plenty of unpleasant incidents on the front. When one of Nyusik Rabinovich's fellow servicemen, Lieutenant Grigoryev, took off for a combat mission on April 2, 1945, nothing foreshadowed trouble. Accompanying the attack aircraft to the area near the village of Pernék, near Bratislava, Soviet pilots saw on the horizon four enemy aircraft of an unknown type to them. The twin-engine twin-tailed aircraft, silver in color, had significantly higher speeds than the Yak-9. The unknown aircraft immediately attacked the cover group and began pursuing it. Only the fire of anti-aircraft artillery, which repelled the attackers, saved the Soviet pilots from complete defeat. Lieutenant Grigoryev did not return from that ill-fated flight. However, it turned out that on that day, Soviet pilots encountered not Germans, but American long-range fighters, the "Lockheed P-38 Lightning". There was no interaction with the Americans, and the Soviet pilots were not warned that allies might appear in this sector of the front. The Americans, in turn, were unaware of the flights of Soviet aircraft. There was another incident involving American allies. Returning from a mission, Naum saw a seriously damaged American B-17 "Flying Fortress". It was obvious that the aircraft would not make it back to its base. He was afraid to approach too closely, fearing the infamous friendly fire. After prolonged maneuvers, he positioned himself in front of the bomber and, by wagging his wings, signaled it to follow him to the airstrip of the attack aircraft (the huge bomber simply couldn't land at the fighter airstrip). The aircraft landed safely. The next day, Naum was given a ring with a blue stone - from the crew of the B-17. When his friend was shot down by friendly fire from the Americans a few days later, Naum threw the ring into the bushes.

Even in the dying days of the Nazi regime, the Luftwaffe continued to fight. On the evening of April 23, 1945, together with Junior Lieutenant Konovalov, Naum Rabinovich went on one of his last aerial battles. The fighters operated in the area of the Czech city of Brno. As the accompanying attack aircraft withdrew from the target, German fighters attacked on a sweeping flight. Despite the double superiority of the enemy, Lieutenant Rabinovich decided to intercept the "Fockers" at all costs. With an advantage in altitude, he attacked the left-wingman. From a distance of 200-250 meters, with bursts from the OK-16 and machine gun fire from the BS, Nyusik set the German aircraft on fire, and it crashed in the vicinity of Slatina station. The remaining German fighters seemed to be confused and came up with nothing better than to scatter in different directions. But after regrouping, they pursued Rabinovich and Konovalov. Under fire from the Germans, the two Soviet pilots managed to reach the front line.

The glorious pilots of the 513th Aviation Regiment celebrated the Victory Day in Czechoslovakia. After the war, Naum Rabinovich was awarded several more times. In addition to his orders, the ace pilot became the recipient of the medals "For the Capture of Budapest" and "For the Capture of Vienna," "For Victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945," and "For Combat Merit."

From Czechoslovakia, Rabinovich's aviation regiment was relocated to the village of Uzino near Bila Tserkva. Here, Naum Naumovich served until 1948 when his cherished dream came true: he entered the N. E. Zhukovsky Military Air Engineering Academy in Moscow, where he began studying the technical operation of aircraft and engines.

In the Soviet capital, Rabinovich met his future wife - Khina Ioselevna Maley, who was a student at the time. In 1951, the couple had a son, Vladimir, and a few years later, a daughter, Larisa.

After graduating from the academy in 1954, Rabinovich was assigned to Archangelsk. The village of Talagi, not far from Archangelsk. His son Vladimir first learned to ski, and then to walk - there were no roads there. All the graduates of his course either stayed in Moscow or were assigned to "decent" places. Before the assignment, Naum was summoned by Marshal of Aviation Savitsky Evgeny Yakovlevich who said: "...only one Jew will remain in Moscow - me." The place of service and the position corresponded to the rank of major, and in the same year, he was promoted to the next rank. After 4 years of service in Archangelsk, the Soviet ace was transferred to the city of Krasnovodsk. In the new place, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Naum Rabinovich served in Krasnovodsk until 1960. During this period, the Cold War was in full swing, yet the Soviet Union took the unprecedented step of reducing its armed forces. By the decision of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev, the Soviet armed forces were reduced by 1.2 million people. Naum Naumovich was discharged, having served just a few days short of being promoted to the rank of colonel.

As an excellent specialist, after demobilization from the army, Rabinovich was invited to work at Tupolev Design Bureau as a leading engineer. At the DB, Naum Naumovich was involved in the development of advanced weaponry.

A heroic pilot who had believed in the victory of communism worldwide since childhood, Rabinovich gradually became disillusioned with the Bolsheviks. This was influenced by the ongoing anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union. His son, Vladimir, decided to follow in his father's footsteps and graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute. Admission to MAI was also associated with difficulties - during the first physics exam, the young man received a grade of three, although there were no mistakes. The passing grade was not met. Although all the problems were solved correctly. After an exhausting appeal (he spent six hours solving physics problems before the commission), his grade was raised from three to four. And although all the problems were solved correctly, the response was "...we can't raise the grade by more than one point." But he was still accepted. However, with such a surname, no one wanted to hire him, despite his bright mind and excellent knowledge. The former Soviet fighter pilot was forced to seek help from his frontline friends, who held high positions - at the level of deputy directors general in leading aviation firms - but they could not do anything either. "Naum, you understand everything... We would gladly take your son - but the HR department won't approve it." But the threat of the "Fockers" refused to accept such treatment.

The son received a "free diploma" and tried to find a job on his own. After trying 14 places, including the Moscow Automobile Plant (AZLK) and other "open" organizations, he barely managed to get a job at the Institute of Television and Radio Broadcasting.

A funny incident occurred at AZLK - seeing the diploma of a graduate of the Faculty of Radio Electronics of MAI, the chief engineer was ecstatic - he had never dreamed of getting a graduate from MAI. However, the person who came in response to his call, with a Komsomol badge, took the passport and pointed to the fifth line with his finger. After that, Vladimir was once again refused - "we'll call you back."

And then Naum Naumovich decided that there was nothing left for his family to do in the Soviet Union. He did not apply himself for relocation - he didn't have to count on permission with his job. The war veteran had to resort to a fictitious divorce from his wife. Naum did not leave Moscow, he lived illegally, but he was registered in Zaporizhzhia. Fortunately, Naum had a brother, Lion, who lived in Zaporizhzhia and was able to register him at his apartment.

Eventually, after a lot of stress, his son Vladimir, daughter Larisa, and wife Khina Ioselevna were given permission to leave. On January 4, 1980, they left for America. In the separation from his children and wife, the Soviet veteran had to live for seven long years. It was only when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power that Naum Naumovich gave his son the go-ahead: "Act!"

Vladimir Rabinovich worked at CBS TV Network in the USA, so the struggle of the Soviet ace to reunite with his family became known worldwide. Vladimir conducted pickets in New York, participated in rallies, and met with senators multiple times, demanding the release of his father from the Soviet Union. The resolution came in 1987 when Margaret Thatcher visited Moscow and handed Mikhail Gorbachev a list of people she personally requested for release. Naum Rabinovich was on Thatcher's list.

At the time of his departure to the USA, the veteran was already seriously ill. In the free state that he finally escaped to, he was fortunate to live only six months.

Until the end of his days, the Soviet pilot remembered his fallen comrades and fellow soldiers who fought against the Nazis. His favorite war movie was Leonid Bykov's "Only Old Men Go to Battle." Whenever he watched the film, Naum Rabinovich would exclaim enthusiastically, " This movie is about us! As if the director had visited our aviation regiment during those distant wartime years and filmed our daily combat life!... And I am Kuznechik."

The Soviet ace passed away on July 26, 1988, in New York. Naum Rabinovich left behind 5 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. They observe the commandments of the Torah and honor the traditions of Israel.

Bibliography and Sources:

Memoirs of Lion Naumovich Rabinovich (Facebook, June 26, 2022).

Interview with Vladimir Naumovich Rabinovich for the "Jewish Heroes" project (January 2024).

Overview of combat actions of the 513th Fighter Aviation Kamianets-Podilskyi Order of Suvorov III degree regiment, 1944-1945 // "Memory of the People" database.

Photos used in the article were obtained from the personal archive of Vladimir Naumovich Rabinovich.

Naum Rabinovich

1923 – 1988

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