Alexey Meresyev

by Maxim from Tselina, Russia

A hero… Is it a person who has saved someone’s life or is it just someone who you look up to? For me a hero is someone who can achieve his aims and never gives up. A person whose life is full of honorable actions. I think Aleksei Meresyev is a real hero.

Aleksei Petrovich Meresyev was born in Russia in 1916. Although his three elder brothers were strong healthy boys, Aleksei's own health was not so good. He particularly suffered from pain in his joints. The nearest school was four kilometres away and sometimes Aleksei's brothers almost had to carry him back. Aleksei always wanted to become a pilot but with health problems like these, there was no chance.

However, it all turned out for the best. Much to Aleksei's own surprise, after a few months of being in the Far East his health started to improve. Eventually, Meresyev joined an air club. After serving in the army in the Russian Air Force, Meresyev went on to study at a professional college for military pilots. He finished the college just in time to put his newly learnt skills into practice.

When the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941, Meresyev was sent to the front to serve as a fighter pilot. By April 1942, Maresyev had shot down 4 German planes. However, on the 4th of April, Meresyev's luck ran out. He was shot down and had to make an emergency landing. He tried to land on a frozen lake but lost control of the plane and crashed over a forest. Badly injured, he crawled on his hands for eighteen days and nights to reach the Russian front lines. By that time, his legs had become badly frostbitten and had to be amputated.

But Meresyev refused to give up. After a long and painful struggle he learnt how to fly with prosthetic legs. In 1943, he became a squadron leader. During one mission Meresyev shot down 3 enemy planes.

In August 1943, Aleksei Meresyev was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union medal, the highest military award in the Soviet Union. When The Story of a Real Man by Boris Polevoy came out after the war, Meresyev became a national hero. After the book, there was a film and an opera. For many years to come, every generation of Soviet school children read Aleksei Meresyev's epic story. But Meresyev didn't like the title of a living legend. "I'm a man, not a legend," he said. "There is nothing special in what I did."

Aleksei Petrovich died in 2001 just 2 days before his 85th birthday. In one of his last interviews he said: "I think young people can learn a lesson or two from what I went through in my life. First of all, never be scared, go for it and hold out whatever happens."

I chose Aleksei Meresyev as my hero because his life`s story has taught me never give up.

Page created on 5/14/2009 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 5/14/2009 12:00:00 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.