There are no challenges that are big enough if you’re dedicated and passionate about what you do. That’s what a Soviet pilot proved. Despite all the circumstances that he went through from the very beginning of his life, he managed to show the world that you could overcome and rise above all adversaries if only you put your heart into whatever you do. Oh, and he didn’t even want to be all dramatic about it.

Rough Start

Alexey Maresyev was born just before the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1916. He grew up in Kamyshin together with his three other siblings. He was considered the weakest among the four of them due to his illness. He had constant pain in his joints that his brother sometimes had to carry him from their remote village to their school, which was four kilometers away, and then back home.

In his teens, he joined the political youth organization of the Soviet Union, Komsomol. He was sent as a worker to help in the construction of Komsomolsk-on-Amur, a city in the Russian Far East founded in 1932. In the beginning, Maresyev was unsure if he really wanted to go, but he was persuaded to leave anyway, and so he did. In the Far East, he faced the toughest conditions he had ever been in, at least at that time. He learned to live in the cold and harsh climate. Unknown to him at that moment yet, these prepared him for what was to come in the future.

Maresyev had already set his eyes on being a pilot, and so despite his health issues, he managed to learn how to fly an aircraft and joined the Soviet Air Force, where he initially worked as a technician. In 1940, he graduated from the Military School of Aviation and became a professional pilot. The following year, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, and he was deployed to work as a fighter pilot.