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Lady Death

The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper

"Arguably the finest account of sniping during World War II." – Adrian Gilbert, author of Challenge of Battle. "Undoubtedly literature’s most remarkable account of sniper action." – Charles W. Sasser, former US Army Special Forces soldier and author of One Shot–One Kill

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was one of the most successful – and feared – female snipers of all time. When Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 she left her university studies to join the Red Army. Ignoring offers of positions as a nurse she became part of Soviet Russia’s elite group of female snipers. Within a year she had 309 confirmed kills, including 29 enemy sniper kills. Renowned as the scourge of German soldiers, she was regarded as a key heroic figure for the war effort and, in 1942, on Stalin’s personal orders, she travelled as part of a Soviet delegation to the West, fundraising in Canada, Great Britain and the USA. Dubbed ‘Lady Death’, she spoke out about gender equality in the Red Army and made the case for the USA to continue the fight against the Nazis in Europe. The folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote a song about her exploits – ‘Miss Pavlichenko’ – and she visited the White House, where she formed an unlikely but long-lasting friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt. In November 1942 she visited Coventry and accepted donations of £4,516 from Coventry workers to pay for three X-ray units for the Red Army. She also visited a Birmingham factory as part of her fundraising tour.

Lyudmila Mykhailvna Pavlichenko was born in 1916 in a small Ukrainian town. In 1941, she joined the 25th Chapayev Rifle Division and went on to become one of the highest scoring snipers of the war. She was withdrawn from active duty after being wounded and, in 1942, she was part of a delegation sent to the West. Back in Russia, she never returned to combat but trained snipers. After the war, Pavlichenko finished her education at Kiev University and became a historian. She died on 10 October 1974 at the age of 58 and was buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery.