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

After the war was over, Pavlichenko demonstrated how she would perch herself in a tree. Credit: YouTube

Going Into Battle

Lyudmila Pavlichenko killed two Nazi soldiers on her first day of active duty, and she kept up that momentum throughout the war. The Battle of Odessa only lasted for 73 days, and she had 187 confirmed kills. And after the Battle of Sevastopol, her new total kill count was 257. One day, she was hiding in a tree. An enemy soldier discovered her, and they began to shoot. So she fell out of the tree and laid on the ground. She played dead for several hours, laying completely still, until nightfall. Pavlichenko was able to make it back to her camp, giving her a reputation that she had literally come back from the dead. She earned the nickname “Lady Death”, and word spread that the Soviets had an incredibly skilled woman on their side.

Soviet soldiers completely respected her, and she was moving up in the ranks of the Soviet army. During a particularly difficult battle, the senior officers were all killed, and there was no one left to give commands. She naturally stepped into the role, and everyone listened to her orders on what they should do next. One of the soldiers yelled out, “Cowards! Look at this woman! Pavlichenko has the balls of a man!” This fired the men up, and they made it out alive. She was so popular, even met her second husband, Sergeant Major Kitsenko, while they were at war together.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko holding her gun. Credit: Getty Images

As the war went on, Pavlichenko became better and better at sniping. She began to use various tactics to distract Nazi soldiers, like tying bright colorful scarves to plants, and store mannequins dressed up in German uniforms. The Nazis stopped to stare at her distractions. She was able to get a clear shot at them, setting her sights on their heads and pulling the trigger. At one point, the Soviets needed her help to get rid of the enemy’s most skilled shooters. She was assigned to become a “counter sniper”, which was when two snipers go head-to-head. This meant that she had to stay in hiding for days at a time without taking any breaks. She never lost, though. She managed to kill 36 of the most talented German snipers.

When German soldiers saw her on the battlefield, they would should that they would kill her and “cut her into 309 pieces.” Instead of intimidating her, she was actually happy about this. It meant that they knew exactly who she was, and her reputation had proceeded her. She knew that they must be frightened. Other times, they would shout over the loudspeaker that if she chose to come to their side, they would give her chocolate and make her a German officer. Obviously, she didn’t fall for the bait, and shot at those men, instead.