19-YEAR-OLD SOVIET SNIPER ROZA SHANINA HAD 59 CONFIRMED KILLS, 1945
In the vast Russian pine forest, a small, lonesome figure was walking. It happened just a few years before the start of the Second World War. She had set out alone, without the permission of her parents, carrying just enough food to keep her for the long march. She was used to walking. Every day for years she had walked twelve kilometers back and forward from her school in the small village closest to her home; she knew she could do it. She was only fourteen years old.
Her name was Roza Shanina. She walked almost 200 kilometers all alone, til reaching a train station. From the station, she took the train to Arkhangelsk, the city where she enrolled in the college.
She enjoyed the city, loved the cinemas, the lights and the people. She was quite friendly and very intelligent, so she made a lot of friends. More than once, she would return to her college dormitory after all the doors had been locked, entering with the help of her friends using a rope of tied bedsheets.
Soon after starting school, she had to find a job to pay for her studies. The job was at a kindergarten in the city, a job she liked and she was well liked by the children, the parents, and the staff. The job included a little apartment, so for the first time in her life she had a place of her own. She worked hard and studied at night, but she was happy.
In 1941, Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union launching the colossal Operation Barbarossa, so in early 1943 Roza enrolled the army. By then, she had lost two brothers in the war, and she would lose the third one before the end. She joined the Central Female Sniper Academy and in April of 1944, she was commanding on all-female sniper platoon and soon sent to the front.
After the hard-won Soviet victory at the battle of Stalingrad, the Russians started a series of attacks against the German army. In early April 1944, during these actions, Roza took a human life for the first time in her life. She was a bit shocked, but her comrades congratulated her.
“I’ve killed a man,” she said as her legs were shaking down into the trenches. That first kill meant the beginning of a legendary career. By the end of that year, Roza Shanina was known for her deadly shot and often named as the “unseen terror of East Prussia.” Unfortunately, this was a short career...
“Finally, in the evening a German showed in the trench. I estimated the distance to the target was not over 400 meters. A suitable distance. When the Fritz, keeping his head down, went toward the woods, I fired, but from the way he fell, I knew I had not killed him. For about an hour the fascist lay in the mud, not daring to move. Then he started crawling. I fired again, and this time did not miss.”- She described it to the press later.
By October, she was famous. “Let the Russian mother rejoice who gave birth to, brought up and gave this glorious, noble daughter to the Motherland!” journalist Ilya Ehrenburg wrote about her. Magazines and newspapers depicted her wearing a skirt while holding a rifle.
Shanina began writing about her time in battle on the frontline in her diary, as well as meditating on her loneliness, heartbreak, and hopes after the war is over.
“My heart does not trust anyone,” she wrote by Oct. 10, 1944. She made some friends and a boyfriend, only to lose many of them in battle. The war stunted her love life. “I blame this scum that comes with army life, wrecking everything, not caring about a girl.”
ROZA SHANINA’S FINAL DAYS
As Shanina’s days and nights on the frontlines got longer and incoming gunfire became endless, her diary entries became sad day by day. “Frost in the tank, unaccustomed to tank smoke and it hurts my eyes; I can’t breathe these fumes. Slept like the dead,” she wrote down on Jan. 16, 1945. After, she continued: “I’m finally sure that I’m not capable of love.”
But this was not enough, the next days have been even worse: “Today for me seemed like a month,” she wrote on January 17. “Nearly vomited at all the body parts. Bandaged the wounded and moved forward….Frost, hunger. Went into a unit. The guys threw some filthy compliments at me. Filthy language everywhere. So tired. I went off on my own.”
She was looking to the future, still with hope, feeling isolated and wishing for more. But on Jan. 27, 1945, soldiers from her company found her on the battlefield, covered by blood, with her chest open by a shell, covering a wounded officer to protect him. It was too late to save her. She was buried somewhere in eastern Germany with full military honors. Roza Shaninawas the first female Soviet sniper to be awarded the Order of Glory, ocuppying a high position between the deadliest Soviet snipers of World War II.
Roza Shanina TIMELINE
3 Apr 1924 - Roza Shanina was born in the village of Yedma, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia.
11 Sep 1941 - She took on a job at a kindergarten in Arkhangelsk, Russia to pay for her tuition.
22 Jun 1943 - Roza was accepted into the Vsevobuch program for universal military training.
2 Apr 1944 - Roza Shanina was made the commander of the all-female 1st Sniper Platoon of the Soviet 184th Rifle Division.
5 Apr 1944 - Her first German soldier killed southeast of Vitebsk, Byelorussia.
17 Apr 1944 - Shanina is awarded the Order of Glory 3rd Class while fighting in Byelorussia; the first woman of 3rd Byelorussian Front to receive this award.
9 Jun 1944 - The front page of the Soviet newspaper Unichtozhim Vraga showed sniper Roza Shanina on.
22 Jun 1944 - With the other female snipers in her platoon, Roza Shanina received orders to be withdrawn from front line combat. She continued to fight with an infantry unit in Byelorussia, disobeying her orders.
31 Aug 1944 - Roza Shanina reached 42 confirmed kills.
16 Sep 1944 - Roza was awarded the Order of Glory 2nd Class.
17 Sep 1944 - Soviet newspaper Unichtozhim Vraga credited Roza Shanina with 51 kills.
6 Oct 1944 - Roza Shanina began keeping a combat diary against orders.
17 Oct 1944 - She visited her family in Arkhangelsk, Russia.
27 Oct 1944 - Shanina was awarded the Medal for Courage.
10 Nov 1944 - In her diary, Roza recorded the death of her lover Misha Panarin.
12 Dec 1944 - Roza Shanina was wounded in the right shoulder by a German sniper.
8 Jan 1945 - Soviet 5th Army formally granted Roza Shanina the permission to fight on the front lines.
16 Jan 1945 - Roza Shanina wrote in her diary "What I've actually done? No more than I have to as a Soviet man, having stood up to defend the motherland."
17 Jan 1945 - In a letter to a friend, Roza noted that she might being killed in combat as the numbers of her battalion dwindled.
24 Jan 1945 - Roza Shanina made her final entry in her combat diary.
27 Jan 1945 - Shanina was seriously wounded while shielding a wounded artillery officer.
28 Jan 1945 - Roza Shanina passed away from wound received in combat on the previous day.
Information: World War II Database, allthatsinteresting.com, War History Online, worldwartwo.filminspector.com, Russian Public Archives
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