Mariya Nikitichna Tsukanova would be the only woman awarded the “Hero of the Soviet Union” in the Soviet-Japanese War. She would also have a monument erected in Vladivostok. However, nothing could compare to the hardships and sacrifices she endured to help her fellow Soviets during that time of uncertainties and chaos, even when she could’ve just run and saved herself.
Girl from Smolenka
Before Tsukanova was born on September 14, 1924, her father had died several months before. She was taken to a Russian peasant family in the village of Smolenka, in the Tyumen region. Her mother remarried when she was five and grew up living with her mother, stepfather, and brother.
She spent her childhood and adolescence in the Krasnoyarsk Territory until junior high. In 1941, Tsukanova worked as a telephone operator and a nurse in a hospital in Rostov. She then moved to Irkutsk and worked at the Irkutsk Aviation Plant from February to June 1942— as a student and later as an inspector and controller of the 4th category. She was a working student who, at the same time, was taking courses in medicine.
Volunteered to Serve
When the decree of the State Defense Committee of the USSR appealed to the public for 25,000 female volunteers for the Navy in May 1942, Mariya did not think for a second and enlisted herself. On June 13, she was already on her way to serve on the Pacific front to fight as part of the 51st artillery battalion as a signalman. Later, she was reassigned to the 100th and 419th artillery batteries as a rangefinder. After graduating from the school of junior medical specialists in 1944, she was deployed as a medical orderly of the 355th Independent Guards Naval Infantry Battalion.