Roza Yegorovna Shanina

Roza Yegorovna Shanina

If there was a pin-up girl for Soviet snipers, Shanina would probably be it. Though her tally – a “mere” 59 confirmed victims – was not among the highest, her character and heroic character have resonated through the subsequent decades. Her strong personality was apparent well before the war: at age 14, she walked 120 miles to study at college, against the wishes of her parents. After her brother was killed in action in December 1941,. she asked to join the military, but she was not accepted until June 1943. She graduated with honours, and joined the 184th Rifle Division the following April, being appointed commander of a female sniper group. Barely two weeks later, she was awarded her first military decoration, the Order of Glory 3rd Class, having taken out 13 members of the enemy while under fire.
Even after her platoon was disbanded and snipers were withdrawn, Roza persisted: when her request to be returned to the front was refused, she went anyway [she was reprimanded, but avoided formal sanction] Her renown even reached the West, including her photo in the Washingtom Times-Herald and an AP report in September 1944 describing her as “the unseen terror of East Prussia”, citing a Red Army report describing how she sniped five Nazis in a single incident. Shanina was wounded in the shoulder by enemy fire in December, but persisted in efforts to obtain official sanction for service at the front. She finally obtained it on January 8, 1945, but wouldn’t survive the month. While shielding an injured officer, Roza was hit by a shell fragment, and died the following day. She was about two months shy of turning 21.
However, Shanina had – in disregard of regulations – kept a diary over the last few months of her life. This record of her war, along with a large number of letters she had written to friends and relations, were published in the mid-sixties and rekindled interest in this Soviet heroine.

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