So I know this blog is quickly becoming a women of WWII blog, but there are just so many amazing, badass, well-documented gal heroes from this era that I simply cannot resist the temptation to cover more (sorry not sorry). So, for the third installment of the Badass Women of WWII blog series (see “The Night Witches” and “The White Mouse: Nancy Wake” for the first two installments) I present to you the most deadly female sniper who ever lived: Lyudmila Pavlichenko.
Growing up in the Soviet Union, Pavlichenko had a passion for shooting, and by the time she reached university she had earned virtually every civilian sharpshooter medal in existence in the USSR. When Nazis bombed her university, she was spurred into action. She went to her nearest recruiter’s office and demanded to be made a sniper. The men there, of course, were not too keen on this idea (Ew, a girl soldier? Shouldn’t you be, like, a nurse or something??). As she was one of the most qualified candidates they had ever seen, they couldn’t much argue with her credentials, however, and after training she was sent to the Eastern Front.
She was good at her job. Scary good. She tied mannequins to trees to draw enemy fire so she could locate her enemies and pick them out, tied distracting strips of red cloth to branches to disorient the enemy, and hunted in the rain to muffle her gunfire. She became so good that enemy snipers began to seek her out and target her.
On one occasion Pavlichenko was fired at by an enemy sniper, and although the bullet missed, to save herself she let go of the tree branch on which she was perched, fell 12 feet to the ground, and lay perfectly still for literally hours until night fell and she could safely crawl away. If that isn’t hardcore AF, please tell me what is. On another occasion she found herself in a duel with another sniper across a field. In order to protect herself she quickly hid in a nearby mass of briars. Yep, the sharp thorny kind that tears your skin apart. She waited for hours in this mass of briars watching the other sniper, with no food or water, no coat in the middle of Russian winter, and a literal battle raging around her. When the German sniper grew impatient and slipped up, Pavlichenko took her shot and won the duel. She killed 36 other snipers in all who unwisely tried to take her on over the course of the war. I literally cannot even express my level of fangirl over this woman.
During one battle, enemy shells severely injured her and killed all of the senior commanders present, but she immediately took charge over the remaining forces and fought on. Seeing her dole out orders with her injury, one soldier shouted at his compatriots: “Cowards! Look at this woman. Pavlichenko has the balls of a man.”
She was so deadly and hated by the enemy that the Nazis literally nicknamed her Lady Death. In other words she had THE COOLEST nickname of all time.
Like most shooters, she often worked in a spotter/sniper pair. She and her spotter, Sergeant-Major Leonid Kitsenko, fell deeply in love and were married for a short period of time. Her husband was too soon killed in the war, however, and after this, Pavlichenko’s work grew darker and crueler.
One of her moves was to shoot a German in the leg to draw out his comrades to assist him when he cried for help, and then murder anyone who dared venture out to help his dying compatriot. When she was finally forced to evacuate from battle due to unsustainable injuries, she had killed 309.
After her retirement from battle, the USSR sent her to America to build international support for the war. There, she became lifelong friends with the great First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Literally the coolest gal pals of all time.
Lady Death’s was the easiest story to write yet because she was so amazingly dedicated and badass that her story needed no embellishment or editing whatsoever. Cheers to one of the coolest ladies to have ever lived. It may not have been a very happy life, but it was sure as hell an inspiring one. Thank you for your sacrifice, Lyudmila Pavlichenko. May you rest in peace; Lord knows you deserve some.