Faces of war
#4 Roza Shanina
Roza Georgiyevna Shanina was born on 3 April 1924 in the Russian village of Yedma (Arkhangelsk Oblast) to Anna Alexeyevna Shanina, a kolkhoz milkmaid, and Georgiy (Yegor) Mikhailovich Shanin, a logger who had been disabled by a wound received during World War I.
Roza was reportedly named after the Marxist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg and had six siblings: one sister Yuliya and five brothers: Mikhail, Fyodor, Sergei, Pavel and Marat. The Shanins also raised three orphans.
After finishing four classes of elementary school in Yedma, Shanina continued her education in the village of Bereznik.
At the age of fourteen, Shanina, against her parents’ wishes, walked 200 kilometres across the taiga to the rail station and travelled to Arkhangelsk to study at the college there.
In 1938, Shanina became a member of the Soviet youth movement Komsomol. Shanina received little financial support from home and on 11 September 1941, she took a job in kindergarten No. 2 (lately known as Beryozka) in Arkhangelsk, with which she was offered a free apartment. She studied in the evenings and worked in the kindergarten during the daytime. Shanina graduated from college in the 1941–42 academic year, when the Soviet Union was in the grip of World War II.
Shanina’s two elder brothers had volunteered for the military. In December 1941, a death notification was received for her 19-year-old brother Mikhail, who had died during the Siege of Leningrad. In response, Shanina went to the military commissariat to ask for permission to serve.
On 22 June 1943, while still living in the dormitory, Shanina was accepted into the Vsevobuch program for universal military training.
After Shanina’s several applications, the military commissariat finally allowed her to enrol in the Central Female Sniper Academy, where she met Aleksandra “Sasha” Yekimova and Kaleriya “Kalya” Petrova, who became her closest friends.
On 2 April 1944 joined the 184th Rifle Division, where a separate female sniper platoon had been formed. Shanina was appointed a commander of that platoon. Three days later, southeast of Vitebsk, Shanina killed her first German soldier.
For her actions in the battle for the village of Kozyi Gory (Smolensk Oblast), Shanina was awarded her first military distinction, the Order of Glory 3rd Class on 17 April 1944.
By May 1944, her sniper tally increased to 17 confirmed enemy kills.
When Operation Bagration commenced in the Vitebsk region on 22 June 1944, it was decided that female snipers would be withdrawn. They voluntarily continued to support the advancing infantry anyway, and despite the Soviet policy of sparing snipers, Shanina asked to be sent to the front line. Although her request was refused, she went anyway. Shanina was later sanctioned for going to the front line without permission, but did not face a court martial.
Shanina and her sisters-in-arms took part in the struggle for Vilnius, which had been under German occupation since 24 June 1941.
During the fights in Eastern Prussia, Shanina was hit by a bullet in the shoulder on 12 December 1944.
On 27 January Shanina was severely injured while shielding a wounded artillery officer. She was found by two soldiers disemboweled, with her chest torn open by a shell fragment. Despite attempts to save her, Shanina died the following day.
Roza Shanina’s diary and several letters were published after her death. She was credited with fifty-nine confirmed kills, and recieved three different orders during her lifetime (Orders of Glory 3rd and 2nd Class, Medal for Courage) which makes her one of the most sucessful and most famous female snipers of World War Two.