‘Lady Death’ the Story of a Successful Sniper

 

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was the Soviet Army’s most successful female sniper during World War II. A fourth-year history student when Hitler invaded Russia, she quit school to enlist as a sniper. In 1941 and 1942 she racked up 309 kills.

“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, is an English translation of her memoirs. She died in 1974, leaving a manuscript copy of her memoirs, which remained unpublished until this century.

In it she recounts her life, with a primary emphasis on her wartime experiences. She shows how she became an expert marksman before the war, joining shooting teams at work and in school, becoming fascinated with both the machinery of the rifle and the art of shooting.

She put those skills to good use when Russia was invaded. Enlisting as a private, she served as a sniper in the 25th Rifle Division. She recounts her experiences during the summer of 1941 through the spring of 1942. She fought at the sieges of Odessa and Sevastopol, was wounded several times, promoted to lieutenant (and command of a sniper platoon), married a husband and saw him die in combat. These experiences are described in the chapters covering her combat career.

Wounded near the end of the latter siege, she was evacuated before Sevastopol fell. She had become famous, the subject of several published Soviet “histories” she states invented exploits for dramatic purposes.

Against her objections (she had a husband to avenge) she was sent to the United States on Stalin’s orders as a Soviet student representative to an international youth conference. There she met and was befriended by Eleanor Roosevelt. This is as fascinating an account as her combat recollections. The United States, Canada, and Britain were environments to which she had never been exposed.

Pavlichenko was an unapologetic communist, who grew up a privileged member of the nomenclature, the Soviet elite. This colors her history of events. She mentions Hitler invading Poland, but fails to mention the Soviets aided Hitler.

Regardless, “Lady Death,” is fascinating, and Pavlichenko’s beliefs don’t change her real accomplishments. This is a book worth reading.

“Lady Death: The Memoirs of Stalin’s Sniper,” by Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Greenhill Books, 2018, 272 pages, $32.95

I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

There are 7 comments.

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  1. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter
    @JimmyCarter

    Seawriter: married a husband

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen that phrase before. 

    • #1
  2. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    Jimmy Carter (View Comment):

    Seawriter: married a husband

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen that phrase before.

    Kinda 21st century.

    • #2
  3. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    I own a few of the Mosin-Nagant rifles Ms. Pavlichenko favored, though none has a scope. (Because of the straight bolts on these rifles, you either have to modify the bolt or use a long-eye-relief scope mounted well forward of the action.)

    Sounds interesting. I may find a copy. Thanks!

    • #3
  4. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I own a few of the Mosin-Nagant rifles Ms. Pavlichenko favored, though none has a scope. (Because of the straight bolts on these rifles, you either have to modify the bolt or use a long-eye-relief scope mounted well forward of the action.)

    Sounds interesting. I may find a copy. Thanks!

    A copy of the book or a copy of the forward-mounted long-eye-relief scope she used? 

    • #4
  5. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    I own a few of the Mosin-Nagant rifles Ms. Pavlichenko favored, though none has a scope. (Because of the straight bolts on these rifles, you either have to modify the bolt or use a long-eye-relief scope mounted well forward of the action.)

    Sounds interesting. I may find a copy. Thanks!

    You see her in the cover photo using a long eye-relief finder.

    • #5
  6. Right Wing Teamster Lawyer Thatcher
    Right Wing Teamster Lawyer
    @RightWingTeamsterLawyer

    Propitious timing!! I finished Stephen Hunter’s Sniper’s Honor yesterday.  The story involves Bob Lee Swagger’s hunt to find out what happened to one of the most famous Soviet female snipers.  It piqued my interest in discovering the story of these women. Will be reading Lady Death soon.  thanks for the review @seawriter 

    • #6
  7. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Thanks, Seawriter.

    • #7

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