As part of a month long build up to International Women’s Day Celebrations on the 8th of March, the YCL will be publishing daily articles highlighting the exemplary role played by women in the international communist & working class movement.
Today we pay tribute to anti-fascist Sniper and Hero of the Soviet Union, Lyudmila Pavlichenko #8
YCLers are encouraged to host, support and participate in celebrations locally to bring the message of International Women’s Day into Our workplaces, colleges and schools, and communities.
Lyudmila Pavlichenko (1916 – 1974) was born in the Ukraine which was then part of the crumbling Russian Empire.
Growing up almost in tandem with the rise of the young Soviet Union after leaving school she became a factory worker in Kiev and in 1937 enrolled at Kiev State University, where she practised shooting for sport. As soon as the Second World War broke out she volunteered for the front, refusing to serve in a nursing position nurse because she wanted to be a sniper – one of what was to be almost 2,500 women Soviet snipers.
The Soviet Union had more women serving in combat roles than any other country during WWII, with a million women in front line roles, including tank drivers and fighter pilots. The defence of all the Soviet Union’s population and the defeat of the ruthless Nazi-Fascist invaders was their top priority.
Called “Lady Death” by the American press, Lyudmila struck terror into the hearts of the Nazis who sought to murder and enslave the Slavic peoples of Eastern Europe as “inferior races” and take their land for German farms.
Deployed to the Eastern Front around Odessa and Sevastopol, Lyudmila singlehandedly killed 309 enemy soldiers and officers by June 1942, including 36 enemy snipers, and trained many other fierce Red Army snipers.
In June 1942, she was seriously injured and withdrawn from the frontline service. Together with young people from the Soviet Union, she was sent on a delegation to Canada and the United States. In Chicago, New York, Washington and elsewhere she addressed huge crowds and rallied support for the Western Allies to open a second front in Europe and defeat Nazi Germany.
In November 1942, Lyudmila toured Britain where she received over £4,000 in donations from workers to pay for medical supplies to the Red Army and visited factories in Coventry and Birmingham.
At this time the outcome of the war still looked bleak for the people of Europe. Finance, industry and powerful interests in Britain and the USA had been protected their interests by “appeasing” Germany prior to the war allowing it to turn its full arsenal on the USSR. Many in the British ruling class still advocated a separate peace with Germany. On the other hand, for the working people of Britain, the heroic resistance of the Soviet people and the partisans meant that our island no longer stood along against the fascist jackboot.
Pavlichenko was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union, the Order of Lenin and many other medals. She was also commemorated on stamps and in the song “Miss Pavlichenko” by legendary anti-fascist American folk singer Woody Guthrie.
Tens of millions of Soviet citizens regardless of their gender and race volunteered to defend the socialist system, many making the ultimate sacrifice. The life and heroic accomplishments of Lyudmila Pavlichenko demonstrate that the limitations attributed to gender under class society are utterly baseless and will wither away in the face of true equality during the construction of a socialist society.