35 years ago, a tragedy that claimed dozens of lives took place in Russia. The relatives of all the victims were forced to keep silent about the cause and consequences of this fatal event. But what nobody counted on was the fact that there was a survivor: A single eyewitness who today has no problem telling the truth.
In 1981, the newlyweds Vladimir and Larisa Savitskiye, were just returning from their honeymoon. They were both only 20 years old and everything seemed rosy and bright for their future.
On the 24th of August, the couple boarded flight 811 at Komsomolsk-on-Amur airport. As the plane took off, Larisa and Vladimir couldn’t have imagined that they were leaving behind all of their dreams.
Mid-flight, a Tu-16 military jet crashed into the aircraft carrying 38 passengers. The incoming military plane was traveling so fast that there was no time for the other plane to react. Most of the passengers died immediately on impact. “At the moment of the crash we immediately lost the roof and the wings. There were screams,” remembers Larisa. “I turned to my husband, and saw that he was dead. At that moment, I was sure I was about to die as well.”
In that moment she recalled a scene from a movie with a plane crash, “a girl was falling (almost flying) down, hanging onto her seat, into the jungle below,” Larisa said. “So I decided that I needed to sit down to soften the crash of the fall.”
Clutching onto her seat, Larisa plummeted for 8 minutes along with the remaining pieces of the plane. She expected her death to come at any second. Suddenly, a huge line of trees appeared, she was about to touch ground. That is all she remembers before she lost consciousness.
“I opened my eyes, and the first thing I saw my husband’s body. He was lying in front of me, 3-4m away.” Larisa recalls her horror and pain, “It felt like he wanted to see me one last time, like he was saying farewell.”
Larisa spent two days in the Siberian forest, trying to find help. As the hours went by, her hopes of being saved dwindled. On the 3rd day she was found by fishermen. “I found out that there was already a tomb made for me by relatives. A list had already been issued with the names of all the passengers on the flight and their relatives had been contacted by officials.”
In the Soviet newspapers, not a single line was written about the tragedy. The fact that two planes crashed into each other was immediately covered up by the USSR secret police. The relatives of the victims were ordered to keep silent, their right to remember and honor their loved ones taken away from them. When Larisa finally made it to a hospital, her room was guarded by several men in uniform. Neither relatives, nor friends were allowed to visit her, “My mom was ‘advised’ to keep quiet,” said Larisa. Only after many years, in the 2000s, were all of the details of this catastrophe brought to light.
Larissa, the sole survivor of that horrible tragedy, struggled to overcome her injures for a long time. But after a few years she managed to move on, and even gave birth to a son.() Looking at these pictures, taken some years after the crash, it is hard to believe what this beautiful woman had to endure.
“I think it was a mistake made by the military – they overlooked the fact that a passenger aircraft was flying the exact same route,” says Larisa. “Now, every year, on the 24th of August, I celebrate my second birthday. It still feels like a part of me is still out there – it hasn’t landed yet. It will never land.”