Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a.k.a. “Lady Death” Was The Greatest Soviet Female Sniper

Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a.k.a. “Lady Death” Was The Greatest Soviet Female Sniper

By Shannon Quinn

World War II history is often filled with the stories glorifying the bravery of the men who fought to defend their countries. Most ladies were at home doing their duty in factory jobs and taking care of the home front, but one 24-year old woman dedicated her life to killing Nazis. Her name was Lyudmila Pavlichenko, and she was a sniper on behalf of the Soviet Union. She had a kill count of 309, which made her the single most successful female sniper in all of history. After the war was over, she toured the United States, and formed an unexpected friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt before she went back to a very normal life. Decades have gone by, and her memory has nearly been forgotten. Lyudmila Pavlichenko deserves to be honored for risking her life for her country.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko, in a colorized photo. Credit: Airsoft Action Magazine

Pavlichenko Wanted Revenge on the Nazis

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was born in Bila Tserkva, which is modern-day Ukraine. When she was a young girl, she was a tomboy, and was competitive in sports. She heard a boy in her neighborhood bragging about the fact that he was a real sharp shooter. After hearing this, she thought to herself that she could be just as good at anything that a boy could do. So, she learned how to use a gun, and started training. She turned out to be correct, because she won multiple awards in marksmanship.

Pavlichenko got married when she was just 16 years old, and had a son named Rostislav. But she wanted so much more from her life than being a housewife. She got a divorce, and years later, when her son was old enough to go to school, she attended Kiev University as a history major. When she was in her senior year, Nazis bombed her school, and it stopped her from finishing her Bachelor’s Degree. This was the beginning of her deep-seated hatred for the Nazis.

Pavlichenko with her comrades. Credit: Colored by Za Rodinu on Flickr.

At 24 years old, she signed up to be a sniper in the Soviet army. At first, they denied her for being a woman, but she came prepared. She had earned several marksmanship awards for shooting throughout her lifetime. After seeing her talent, they made an exception, and allowed her to enlist. The Russians sent her to study at “sniper school”, where they trained her to use her shooting skills. However, The Red Army officers expected her to prove herself far more than any man. The officers shoved her out into an open field, and told her to kill two enemy German soldiers. The Nazis fell to the ground, because Pavlichenko did not hesitate to shoot. She passed the test, but those two deaths did not count towards her official total kill count. The Soviet Union accepted a total of 2,000 female snipers, but only 500 survived the war.