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.