Red Army Sniper Roza Shanina and her partner, 1945
Roza Shanina, who was only 20 years old in this picture, volunteered for duty in 1941 after her brother was killed, initially denied because she was a woman, she was later allowed to join in 1942 when the Red Army loosened restrictions on women. She was praised by her instructors for being incredibly accurate with a rifle, and was enrolled in the Central Women’s Sniper Training School in Moscow. She was one of the top students of her class and left the school with many honours, allegedly, one of her signature tricks was to score doublets, hitting two targets with two bullets in quick succession. She was asked to stay on as a teacher, but was adamant on going to the front.
In April 1944, she joined the 184th Rifle Division as the commander of the Division’s female sniper platoon. Three days after arriving at the front, she scored her first kill. In the following five days, she would score another 13 kills, despite constantly being under intense machine gun and artillery fire. For this, she became the first woman to be awarded the Order of Glory
Before the end of her 2nd month on the front, her kill score was 17, including one enemy sniper, and she was praised by her commander as being incredibly brave and accurate.
She took part in the offensive on East Prussia, and by August 31st her kill count had reached 42. On the 19th of September, she took out five German soldiers in a single day, her personal record. From the Ottowa Citizen article written about her on the 20th of September 1944:
The other morning she waited motionless and silent as a German machine-gunner appeared at the exit of a pillbox made of sandbags and logs.
When he crawled sleepily towards a rear bivouac Rosa fired. One shot toppled him over. Two comrades rushed to investigate. Rosa got both. Then two more Germans showed themselves. They were also killed.
At this time, the Germans were reinforcing her sector of the front, and Soviet casualties there were starting to climb rapidly. On the 17th of January, she predicted in her diary that she might be killed soon, since 72 out of 78 people in her battalion had been killed. Her last diary report talks about how German fire is so intense that Soviet soldiers have to take cover inside Self-Propelled guns.
On the 27th of January, she received a mortal wound while shielding a wounded soldier with her body. She died the following day.
Eleven days before her death, she had written these words in her diary
What I’ve actually done? No more than I have to as a Soviet person, having stood up to defend the motherland.
If it turns necessary to die for the common happiness, then I’m braced to.
The Nurse that tended to her in her final hours said that Roza had regretted nothing.
After the war, she had wanted to go to university, she was always a very academic and intelligent woman. If she couldn’t scrape enough money to afford that, she wished to work with orphans.
There are streets in Arkhangelsk, Shangaly and Stroyevskoye dedicated to her, and the village of Yedma has a museum dedicated to Roza.
The Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Navy holds regular shooting competitions where contestants compete for the Roza Shanina Prize.
This picture was taken just eight days before her death.