How Russian women helped win WWII

Sure, she killed 309 Nazis, but doesn't that uniform  make her look fat?
Sure, she killed 309 Nazis, but doesn’t that uniform make her look fat?

In my historical studies I came upon an assertion that the Russians had actually won WWII at the massive battle of Stalingrad. Battle of Stalingrad? Never heard of it. This is a good example of my theory that most of the history we think we know is basically “propaganda with footnotes.”

So what happened in Stalingrad? Hitler had ditched his non-aggression treaty with Russia and invaded. He really needed their oil and he really wanted their land to make room for the expansion of the glorious thousand-year Reich. What about the Russian people? As an inferior race, the Slavs did not matter. Perhaps some could be left on the land as serfs, alongside the Jews he had wanted to deport en masse to Siberia.

The Germans advanced rapidly through the Russian countryside, slaughtering, burning and raping as they progressed. But they hit a brick wall at Stalingrad. After the initial fierce resistance, the German soldiers were shocked to find that much of the withering firepower they had faced came from women soldiers. Nazi ideology left women in the kitchen and the nursery-what was this?

One Russian war heroine was Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a sharp shooter with 309 kills to her credit. After being repeatedly wounded, she was sent to the United States to encourage westerners to open up another front and take some pressure off Russia, which ultimately lost over 20 million soldiers and citizens to the meat grinder of Nazi Germany.

Her reception makes me groan with embarrassment for United States culture. Did news reporters want to know about the life and death struggle in Stalingrad? No, they wanted to know if women could wear makeup at the front. They sneered at her unflattering uniform. The New York Times dubbed her the “Girl Sniper” and noted that she “wore no lip rouge, or makeup of any kind and that “there isn’t much style to her olive-green uniform.”

After awhile she lost patience with these shallow attitudes. “I wear my uniform with honor,” she told Time magazine, “It has been covered in the blood of battle.” She concluded that American women seemed more concerned about whether they wear silk underwear under their uniform, but “what the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn.”

Since Russia was the Bad Guys for at least sixty years, their tremendous courage and sacrifice at Stalingrad is minimized. “Oh, Stalin said he’d kill deserters,” western authors explain, “that’s why they fought so hard.” “It was just one dictator against another,” others shrug. Many histories praise the Germans and sympathize with their losses.

War, they say, is hell, and Stalingrad was hell on steroids. But the first question to ask is this: “Who was the aggressor?” “Who invaded whom?” Whose boots were on their native land and whose boots were on foreign soil?” In Nuremberg, the Nazis were convicted of “Aggressive war.” Maybe we’d like to sweep that under the carpet, since OUR boots have tromped aggressively on foreign soils a time or two.

I am a Christian woman, I hate war, and should be a pacifist; I’m working on it. But I know that if a mass of invaders were killing, raping and burning their way toward my loved ones, I’d take up arms and fight like a wolverine. Not for a leader, not for some high-faluting abstract political idea; for my family and for the land where they live.

The battle of Stalingrad was won by those “inferior” Slavs, helped by the “weaker sex.” The German war machine met its match right there: The Russians in effect told the Germans: “Rant on about your fatherland-this is MY FATHERLAND.”

Does that sound corny? I don’t care. Credit where due: Hats off to the Russians who held the bloody line at Stalingrad.

Henry Sakaida, Heroines of the Soviet Union, 1941-45

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s