Happy International Women’s Day

Hey there. Happy Wednesday 🙂  In honor of International Women’s Day/Women’s History Month I’ve decided to spotlight strong, independent women from history on the blog. As I was researching the latest Leine Basso thriller, I ran across the story of the woman I’ve chosen for the inaugural post: Lyudmila Pavlichenko.

pavlichenko_lmLyudmila Pavlichenko was a Ukrainian-born sniper active in the Red Army during WWII with 309 confirmed kills, including 36 enemy snipers (which means she probably killed far more Nazis than 309 since to confirm a kill it had to be witnessed by another person). In an era where women in the US and Soviet Union weren’t allowed to join the military and fight on the front lines, Pavlichenko blasted through the glass ceiling imposed by the Russian military by being an expert at what she did. Eventually, the Soviet Union not only allowed but actively trained 2,000 women to be snipers, 500 of whom survived the war. Pavlichenko wapav-stamps one of those survivors and often worked in the “no man’s land” between the front lines of her unit and the enemy’s.

She was a woman after my own heart. At the age of 14 when a neighbor boy boasted about how good of a shot he was, she took it upon herself to learn how to shoot better than he did. “I practiced, a lot,” she was quoted as saying. In 1937, she went on to attend college at Kiev University, intending to become a teacher.

From an article in the Smithsonian: “[Pavlichenko] was in Odessa when the war broke out and Romanians and Germans invaded. “They wouldn’t take girls in the army, so I had to resort to all kinds of tricks to get in,” Pavlichenko recalled, noting that officials tried to steer her toward becoming a nurse. To prove that she was as skilled with a rifle as she claimed, a Red Army unit held an impromptu audition at a hill they were defending, handing her a rifle and pointing her toward a pair of Romanians who were working with the Germans. “When I picked off the two, I was accepted,” Pavlichenko said, noting that she did not count the Romanians in her tally of kills “because they were test shots.”
Her first day on the battlefield, she was scared to death and couldn’t bring herself to shoot. A fellow soldier set up next to her to give her courage but was quickly killed by a German sniper. Again from the Smithsonian article: “Pavlichenko was shocked into action. “He was such a nice, happy boy,” she recalled. “And he was killed just next to me. After that, nothing could stop me.”

Justice Robert Jackson, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, Eleanor Roosevelt (Source: Library of Congress)

In 1942 she traveled to the US to drum up support for a second front and while there met and became friends with Eleanor Roosevelt. Reporters gave Pavlichenko a hard time about not wearing makeup and not dressing like a woman should, and to say she was shocked is probably an understatement. She had been awarded the highest honor in Soviet Russia, the Order of Lenin, among other commendations, for what she’d done in the war, and American reporters were concerned about how she looked. (Hasn’t changed much, has it?)

Intrigued by her story, I found a recent film (2015) on Amazon chronicling her life. The Battle for Sevastopol is in Russian and English with English subtitles.  The subtitles whoosh by pretty fast, so have your pause button handy, but the movie itself was cinematic and gut-wrenching and definitely one to watch if you’re into war movies based on a true story.

After being wounded in battle, Pavlichenko went on to train snipers until the war ended, and then returned to university to earn her Master’s degree in history. There were reports that she married a fellow soldier during the war, but that he was killed in the Battle for Sevastopol. There’s a scene in the movie that details this, although I found scant information out there about him.
Read more about Lyudmila Pavlichenko:

Also in honor of International Women’s Day, I’m participating in two promotions featuring strong female characters: from March 6-17th, the 1st Annual Women’s History Month Giveaway (all genres), and running March 8-15th, the Nasty Women Giveaway (the name says it all 🙂 All books are through #Instafreebie, so all you’ll need to do to download your free books is sign up for the newsletter for the author of whichever titles you choose. I guarantee you’ll find yourself some new authors to read 🙂

About dvberkom

Bestselling author of the Kate Jones and Leine Basso thrillers. View all posts by dvberkom

9 responses to “Happy International Women’s Day

  • melparish

    Fascinating article, DV. It’s amazing how many women’s stories are surfacing now, years after they should have been more widely acknowledged. I was furious after watching ‘Hidden Figures’ – how could those women’s work be kept secret all those years when it seemed any similar achievement by men was trumpeted to the whole world? So much fuss was made about putting a man into space – how is it only fifty years later that we learn that it was women who helped make it possible? I have been reading ‘A History of Britain in 21 Women” by Jenni Murray and, while the author stresses that it was her personal choice as to which women to include, many of the women I’d never heard of despite their amazing achievements over the centuries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dvberkom

      I felt the same way about Hidden Figures, Mel. And ditto for all the amazing women we never learned about in history class. Seriously. It’s about damn time we heard about them. Apparently we need more women writing the books being used in the classroom.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Sherry Fundin

    I love that people are sharing so many stories about strong women. Thanks for sharing yours, D.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    Liked by 1 person

    • dvberkom

      YW, Sherry. I’d never heard of female snipers in WWII and thought it was really interesting. Of course, I always knew we were totally capable of picking off the enemy. Turns out, we just need a good reason. 🙂


  • acflory

    Great idea, DV, and a great example to start the ball rolling. What an amazing lady, and so ahead of her time. 70 odd years if you consider that women have just now been given permission to take on all combat roles in Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dvberkom

      It’s unbelievable that our governments didn’t think women could/would fight just as well as men in combat. Most of the women I know are amazingly fierce. I read somewhere in a study on violence that women will more often fight to the death and should never be underestimated. Ya think?


      • acflory

        Definitely not be underestimated. I think there is a tiger in all of us, it just needs the right trigger to come out. For me, I think it would be anything that tried to hurt the Offspring. Not sure I could kill under other circumstances, but I’ve never been tested. I suspect most women out there are the same.

        Liked by 1 person

  • Anne Bonny-Woman Pirate | DV Berkom Books

    […] my celebration of Women’s History Month (the first post featuring sniper Liudmila Paclichenko can be found here) I thought I’d do a little more research on a woman I’d always been intrigued with: the […]


  • Grace O’Malley-Pirate | DV Berkom Books

    […] highlighting strong women through history. The first, about Russian sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, can be found here. The second, featuring female pirate Anne Bonny, can be found here. Since I’m apparently […]


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