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Lady Death

The Memoirs of Stalin's Sniper

Authors: Lyudmila Mykhailvna Pavlichenko
Military History
C Format

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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.

Lyudmila Mykhailvna Pavlichenko

Lyudmila Mykhailvna Pavlichenko

Lyudmila Mykhailvna Pavlichenko was born in 1916 in a small Ukrainian town. In 1941, she joined the 25th Chapayev Rifle Division and went on to become one of the highest scoring snipers of the war. She was withdrawn from active duty after being wounded and, in 1942, she was part of a delegation sent to the West. Back in Russia, […]

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11 reviews for Lady Death

  1. This red-blooded memoir is perfect for any war-history buff. Pavlichenko’s language is straitlaced and unadorned, and Lady Death provides more than a few interesting anecdotes about how the Red Army managed to defeat the at-times numerically and technologically superior Axis forces.

  2. Lady Death is a detail-rich account of one woman’s war experience. Pavlichenko notes that her comrades often scoffed at the idea of a female soldier—a point on which she was quick to set them straight. Technical information about Soviet rifles and the basic mechanics of sniping are also included, alongside constant reminders of Pavlichenko’s hatred of “Fascists” and her desire to kill as many as possible.

  3. A sense of humility runs through Lady Death. In one scene, following Pavlichenko’s successful duel with an enemy sniper, she becomes annoyed by the falsehoods that are printed by Soviet journalists. Similarly, Pavlichenko is open about how uncomfortable she became with the Soviet media and the state’s use of her as a proselytizer for the war. These awkward feelings were strongest during Pavlichenko’s whirlwind tour of America.

  4. This World War II memoir from Soviet Red Army sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko is something of a time capsule, preserving the mindset of a Soviet citizen/soldier during the world’s most genocidal conflict.

  5. This book made me feel like I had been living under a rock because I had no idea there were female snipers. And quite a lot of them. This book transports you in time to Russia in World War 2 and it is interesting to learn what Pavlichenko thought in some situations and what was life like in general.

  6. Definitely one of the best war memoirs I’ve read regarding the Eastern Front of WWII, and well worth a read to anyone interested in snipers or World War II in general

  7. It’s a brilliant read, with chapters detailing her first 100 kills against the Romanians and then moving on to the German army. Her attention to detail with weapons is amazing – I often read memoirs where former soldiers just generally describe their guns as “tommy guns” or “machine guns” but Major Pavlichenko always details the full name of whichever weapon she is talking about, and also throws in some technical specs

  8. The most interesting parts for me were the chapters in which she details a counter-sniping operation against a German sniper, and the chapters dealing with her speaking tour of the US and UK. It was interesting to note the attitudes of pre-war USA towards this woman, with reporters seeming to care more about the cut of her uniform and which colour of underwear she preferred rather than actually asking this soldier about life at war

  9. Quite apart form all that it is very well written. I would have to say this is one of the top five books I’ve read in my fifty years of life. This book is a masterpiece of literature. To such a life the literary quality should be exceptional and it is. This is a book you want to read over and over.

  10. Detailed, yet interesting account from a top USSR sniper. I was inspired by her fearlessness both on and off the battlefield. Her passion and gift as a sniper is evident in this book through her descriptions of operations and discussion of general marksmanship. Readers do not necessarily need to be interested in shooting to enjoy what she has written because her talent and familiarity with her weapon exudes passion and excitement.

  11. Most of us will never know what it is like to live through a war-torn country, losing family members, homes, everything, to a relentless foe, and reading this helped to see, though the author’s eyes, just what ordinary people endured, for the sake of their country and their families

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