A gripping account of the Soviet female sniper corps of WWII
Beginning in 1942, with the Eastern Front having claimed the lives of several million Soviet soldiers, Stalin's Red Army began drafting tens of thousands of women, most of them in their teens or early twenties, to defend against the Nazi invasion. Some volunteered, but most were given no choice, in particular about whether to become a sniper or to fill some other combat role.
After a few months of brutal training, the female snipers were issued with high-powered rifles and sent to the front. Almost without exception, their first kill came as a great shock, and changed them forever. But as the number of kills grew, many snipers became addicted to their new profession, some to the point of becoming depressed if a "hunt" proved fruitless.
Accounts from the veterans of the female sniper corps include vivid descriptions of the close bonds they formed with their fellow soldiers, but also the many hardships and deprivations they faced: days and days in a trench without enough food, water, or rest, their lives constantly at risk from the enemy and from the cold; burying their friends, most of them yet to leave their teenage years; or the frequent sexual harassment by male officers.
Although many of these young women were killed, often on their first day of combat, the majority returned from the front, only to face the usual constellation of trials with which every war veteran is familiar. Some continued their studies, but most were forced to work, even as they also started families or struggled to adjust to life as single parents. Nearly all of them were still in their early twenties, and despite the physical and mental scars left by the war, they had no time for complaints as the Soviet Union rebuilt following the war.
Drawing on original interviews, diaries, and previously unpublished archival material, historian Lyuba Vinogradova has produced an unparalleled quilt of first-person narratives about these women's lives. This fascinating document brings the realities and hardships faced by the Red Army's female sniper corps to life, shedding light on a little-known aspect of the Soviet Union's struggles against Hitler's war machine.