Veterans of French air squadron that fought on Soviet territory visit Moscow school

Five former pilots and mechanics from a French air squadron that fought on Russian territory during World War II were welcomed to a Moscow school Tuesday to celebrate their contribution to the Allies' victory 60 years ago and to meet their one-time comrades.

Gen. Charles de Gaulle established the Normandie-Niemen squadron in 1942 to help the Allies fight on the Eastern Front. Ninety-six volunteers staffed the squadron, which flew in Soviet-made Yak fighter planes, and four of them won the Hero of the Soviet Union military honor.

Pupils treated the visitors to a concert of Russian and French wartime songs at the school, which is the site of a museum devoted to the squadron.

Former pilot Joseph Michel Risso said it was rejuvenating to see the pupils, saying "the atmosphere I find here is the same as I felt when I arrived in (the Russian city of) Ivanovo," the squadron's first stop in the Soviet Union.

Veterans from across Europe and other nations are visiting Russia this week in anticipation of the May 9 celebration of the anniversary of the Allies' victory in Europe.

On the photo: Normandie-Niemen squadron's stripe

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