Ludmilla Pavlichenko was an officer in the Red Army and a prominent sniper during World War 2. Born in 1916 in Bila Tserkva, a town in central Ukraine, Ludmilla’s family moved to Kiev when she was 14. She was a very competitive child from a young age, and she would not let boys outdo her in anything. When a neighborhood boy boasted of his skills with a rifle, it was this competitive spirit that first led Ludmilla to take up shooting.
Ludmilla was in Odessa during Operation Barbarossa, when Nazi Germany attacked the Soviet Union, and she was in the first round of volunteers to the Red Army. However, the recruiters were less than enthusiastic about a female soldier, so they instead tried to steer her towards nursing. After finally proving her skills with a rifle to them by executing two Romanian Nazis, Ludmilla was allowed to join the Red Army.
Her record in the army was nothing short of illustrious. Upon enlisting, she was put into the Red Army’s 25 Chapayev Rifle Division. There she was involved in heavy fighting around Odessa and especially Sevastopol. Is was in these battles that Ludmilla got most of her kills. In May 1942, she was cited by the War Council of the Southern Red Army for killing 257 enemy soldiers.
After this she continued to serve until she was wounded by shrapnel from a German bombing run intended to kill her. She was transferred from the front and became a sniping instructor. In 1942 Ludmilla traveled to Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom, to try to gather support for a second front in Europe, a plan that would later be known as Operation Overlord or D-Day.
While she was a decorated soldier and first Soviet citizen to be formally welcomed to the White House, Ludmilla was still received in a blatantly sexist manner by reporters and others. On one occasion she was asked if she wore makeup into battle, and on another occasion a reporter criticized her uniform by implying that the length of the skirt made Ludmilla look fat. Still, Ludmilla continued to tour the country in an attempt to persuade the Allies to open up a second front in Europe to relieve the Soviet Union.
Though the Allies did eventually open up a second front, it was after the Soviets had gained the upper hand against Nazi Germany and long after Ludmilla had toured the west. Upon her return to the Soviet Union, Ludmilla was promoted to Major, awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union, the highest award in the Soviet Union, and commemorated on a postage stamp.
A recent Russian-Ukrainian film Battle for Sevastopol (2015) was dedicated to Pavlichenko.